When the grocery stores in a neighborhood of Anderson, Indiana closed, the residents were left in a food desert – an area that has a poverty rate of 20% or higher and where residents live more than one mile from the nearest large grocery store. A local not-for-profit organization – the Redwood Foundation – has come up with a creative solution.
Larry McClendon, president of the Foundation, is bringing the Urban Fresh Produce and Meats mobile food market to the area this summer. The bus is expected to run seven days a week, servicing eight food desert sites throughout the region. A decommissioned Bluebird school bus was renovated, outfitted with electricity and running water, and cabinetry, refrigerators, and freezers were installed.
“In a lot of places we have dollar stores, but we don’t have fresh produce, fresh meats,” McClendon said. “Everyone says we need a grocery store. It doesn’t look like we’re getting a grocery store at this point.”
McClendon based his idea on The Twin Cities Mobile Market in Minneapolis, which was started five years ago as a program of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. This ‘market on a bus’ brings affordable and fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, grains and other high-quality groceries directly into neighborhoods around Saint Paul and Minneapolis that don’t have easy access to full-service supermarkets or grocery stores.
The project still requires the necessary permits from the Madison County Health Department, and has also submitted an application to the USDA that would allow them to accept food stamps.
“I think it’s an excellent idea, if you can get through all the red tape, because people can’t continue to keep buying at the dollar stores,” Anderson City Council Vice President, Rebecca Crumes, said. “I know those are popular in a lot of cities where you have some large populations.”