Mobile markets

Mobile markets, mobile farmers markets, or fresh food carts travel to multiple neighborhoods to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, operating on a set schedule so residents know when they can shop. Mobile markets can be created from buses, trucks, vans, carts, or any other vehicle with space to display produce. Mobile markets often travel to areas without easy access to supermarkets or grocery stores (i.e., food deserts). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased access to fruits & vegetables

  • Increased healthy foods in food deserts

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased fruit & vegetable consumption

  • Increased food security

Evidence of Effectiveness

Mobile markets are a suggested strategy to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables in low income neighborhoods and food deserts, and near schools (Widener 2012*, Widener 2013*, CDC MMWR-Khan 2009, Algert 2006*, Tester 2012), as well as to increase fruit and vegetable consumption (CDC-Fruits and vegetables 2011, CDC MMWR-Khan 2009). Increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables has been associated with increased purchases and consumption of fresh produce (Widener 2013*, Wrigley 2002*, Larsen 2009a*). Focus groups examining four mobile markets suggest greater fruit and vegetable consumption among market shoppers than non-shoppers (Zepeda 2014a*). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Mobile markets that accept payments from SNAP and WIC nutrition assistance programs can have greater effects on access to fresh produce than markets that do not (The Network-Mobile vending). Locating mobile markets in neighborhoods with high concentrations of food insecure households may reduce food insecurity (Widener 2012*, Algert 2006*). Nutritional education, advertising and promotion, extended hours of operation, and variety of products may maximize mobile markets’ effects (Zepeda 2014a*).

A system of mobile markets can be established relatively quickly and at low cost, especially in urban areas (Widener 2012*). In some cases, however, incentives may be needed to encourage mobile markets to operate in food deserts (Li 2014).

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

Mobile markets are currently in use in many cities across the country, including Baltimore, MD (Real food-Mobile market); Buffalo, NY (MAP-Mobile market); Chattanooga, TN (Chattanooga mobile); Washington, DC (Arcadia-Mobile market); Hastings, FL (Farm to Family-Mobile); Adrian, MI (PBH-Veggie mobile); Hartford, CT (HFS-Mobile market); Philadelphia, PA (Greensgrow-GFMM); and Contra Costa County, CA (Fresh Approach-Mobile market).

Mobile markets are also being used to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to Native American reservations in Ashland county, Wisconsin (Wojciechowski 2010), and to rural areas in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and Washington (GGFN-Mobile market), and in Appalachian East Tennessee (Rural resources).

Implementation Resources

ChangeLab-Mobile food vending - ChangeLab Solutions. Mobile food vending.

CDC-HFR 2014 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Healthier food retail (HFR): An action guide for public health practitioners. 2014.

The Network-Mobile vending - The Network for Public Health Law (The Network). Food trucks and fruit carts: How mobile vending can create greater access to healthy foods.

LHC-Rockeymoore 2014 - Rockeymoore M, Moscetti C, Fountain A. Rural Childhood Obesity Prevention Toolkit. Leadership for Healthy Communities (LHC), Center for Global Policy Solutions, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 2014.

PAS-Zoning 2016 - Planning Advisory Service (PAS). Planning & zoning for health in the built environment. American Planning Association (APA); 2016.

SRTSNP-Safe routes to healthy foods - Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP). Healthy communities: Safe routes to healthy foods.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Widener 2012* - Widener MJ, Metcalf SS, Bar-Yam Y. Developing a mobile produce distribution system for low-income urban residents in food deserts. Journal of Urban Health. 2012;89(5):733–45.

Widener 2013* - Widener MJ, Metcalf SS, Bar-Yam Y. Agent-based modeling of policies to improve urban food access for low-income populations. Applied Geography. 2013;40:1–10.

CDC MMWR-Khan 2009 - Khan LK, Sobush K, Keener D, et al. Recommended community strategies and measurements to prevent obesity in the United States. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2009;58(RR-07):1-26.

Algert 2006* - Algert SJ, Agrawal A, Lewis DS. Disparities in access to fresh produce in low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2006;30(5):365–70.

Tester 2012 - Tester JM, Yen IH, Laraia B. Using mobile fruit vendors to increase access to fresh fruit and vegetables for schoolchildren. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2012;9.

CDC-Fruits and vegetables 2011 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Strategies to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases: The CDC guide to strategies to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS); 2011.

Wrigley 2002* - Wrigley N, Warm D, Margetts B, Whelan A. Assessing the impact of improved retail access on diet access on diet in a 'food desert': A preliminary report. Urban Studies. 2002;39(11):2061–82.

Larsen 2009a* - Larsen K, Gilliland J. A farmers’ market in a food desert: Evaluating impacts on the price and availability of healthy food. Health and Place. 2009;15(4):1158–1162.

Zepeda 2014a* - Zepeda L, Reznickova A, Lohr L. Overcoming challenges to effectiveness of mobile markets in US food deserts. Appetite. 2014;72:58-67.

The Network-Mobile vending - The Network for Public Health Law (The Network). Food trucks and fruit carts: How mobile vending can create greater access to healthy foods.

Li 2014 - Li KY, Cromley EK, Fox AM, Horowitz CR. Evaluation of the placement of mobile fruit and vegetable vendors to alleviate food deserts in New York City. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2014;11:140086.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Real food-Mobile market - Real Food Farm. Mobile farmers market.

MAP-Mobile market - Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) & Growing Green. Mobile market.

Chattanooga mobile - Chattanooga Mobile Market. Fresh food for all.

Arcadia-Mobile market - Arcadia. Mobile market.

Farm to Family-Mobile - Farm to Family Florida, Pie in the Sky. Produce to the people.

PBH-Veggie mobile - ProMedica Bixby Hospital (PBH), Lenawee Health Network. Veggie Mobile: A rolling farmers’ market for Lenawee County residents.

HFS-Mobile market - Hartford Food System (HFS). Hartford Mobile Market.

Greensgrow-GFMM - Greensgrow. Greensgrow Farms Mobile Markets (GFMM).

Fresh Approach-Mobile market - Fresh Approach. Freshest Cargo: Mobile farmers' market.

Wojciechowski 2010 - Wojciechowski T. FEAST farmer’s market promotion project: Final report. Ashland County: University of Wisconsin Extension; 2010.

GGFN-Mobile market - Gorge Grown Food Network (GGFN). Farmers’ market network uses mobile market trucks to support markets.

Rural resources - Rural Resources. Connecting farms, food & families.

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