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Mobile Food Markets: Increasing Access to Healthy Foods
CDC’s Division of Community Health (DCH) is strengthening community-level health efforts throughout the nation to improve access to healthy eating options. Eating healthy foods can reduce the risk of many health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Although these diseases are preventable, many low-income and rural areas have limited access to foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These areas lack full-service grocery stores and/or farmers markets where residents can buy healthy foods. This lack of access to healthy foods makes it difficult for families to eat properly, fueling the country’s growing obesity epidemic.
Over the past few years, mobile food markets, as part of a larger public health strategy, have provided residents living in food deserts – communities lacking access to supermarkets – a convenient and affordable way to access healthy foods. Mobile food markets are retro-fitted buses, trucks, carts or semi-trailers complete with refrigeration, display cases, and cash registers that accept credit and debit cards. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries can also make purchases by using electronic benefit transfers. Increasing the availability of healthy foods in rural and low-income communities ensures residents have access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables within their own neighborhoods.
Community Health in Action
DCH awardees implement community-level healthy eating strategies that require developing strategic partnerships, and designing sustainable programs that reduce the burden of chronic diseases.
When awardees develop a mobile food market, they must work with partners to determine the best days, times, routes, and foods to offer. Strategies are then tailored to meet specific community needs, like providing favorite fruits or seasonal vegetables that may not otherwise be available in the community. Mobile markets bring fresh fruits and vegetables closer to home for residents to prepare and enjoy.
When implementing a mobile food market, it requires the awardee to think collaboratively. For example, Activate Allen County, in Ohio, partnered with several local, state, and national partners to address food deserts in their community by launching the Mobile Produce Bus. Through this initiative, a bus was converted into a mobile market with refrigeration, shelves, and lighting. The bus travels to low-income communities and provides an affordable and consistent option for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables. Residents use electronic debit cards to make purchases, and they receive instructions on cooking and food preparation.
Other communities across the country have also used mobile markets to provide access to healthy foods.
- In Chicago, Illinois, Food Desert Action/Fresh Moves Mobile Produce Market (FMMPM) provided low-income residents living in the Austin and North Lawndale neighborhoods with access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. Healthy food was not easily accessed in these neighborhoods. Residents purchased fresh fruits and vegetables 4 days a week from a mobile food market that also accepted federal food assistance benefits. Since 2011, FMMPM sold more than 20,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables and benefited more than 8,400 residents.
- In New Mexico, John’s Hopkins Center for American Indian Health (JHCAIH) partnered with local organizations to implement mobile food initiatives in 5 rural communities. Through these collaborations, Mobile Grocery (MoGro), a mobile food truck, offered Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Laguna, Cochiti, and Jemez residents access to healthy, affordable food in their neighborhood. MoGro also provided electronic benefit transfer equipment for residents to make purchases.
For more information about how DCH awardees are improving access to healthy eating, please visit the DCH website at http://www.cdc.gov/NCCDPHP/dch/index.htm.
Provided By: Wendy J. Heirendt, MPA Division of Community Health Program Development and Implementation Branch Centers for Disease Control and Prevention