Mobile Solutions to Improve Nutrition in Food Deserts

Posted on by Lauren Gruffi

The term ‘food desert’ refers to areas where residents lack adequate access to affordable and nutritious food products and beverages due to distance and/or lack of access to transportation in communities. In order to increase access to healthy food choices for SNAP recipients, there has been a recent trend in utilizing mobile programs. These mobile programs innovate the way in which SNAP recipients can access healthy foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, and help combat the health problem of scarcity of healthy food choices in food deserts.

Since publication of the 2012 Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) report directed by Susan Blumenthal, M.D., various mobile food programs have been implemented across the country to continue SNAP’s goal of alleviating hunger in America. As described in the SNAP to Health 2012 Report, Baltimarket is a virtual supermarket program based in Baltimore, Maryland that permits low-income individuals to order groceries online and pick them up at local and accessible locations. Individuals can use EBT benefits in SNAP to purchase their groceries, and they receive a $10 bonus to spend on healthy food after placing their first order as well as on six holidays throughout the year. The Baltimarket initiative also includes farmers markets, public markets, and community garden programs around Baltimore. Another program that has been more recently implemented is the Fresh Picks Mobile Market in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. This initiative is a grocery store on wheels that travels throughout Milwaukee County to reach residents that do not have adequate access to affordable and nutritious food. The mobile market includes more than forty fruits and vegetables and more than ten meat and dairy items.  Finally, a third innovative mobile program is Grow on the Go, centered in Niagara Falls, New York. Grow on the Go converts abandoned shopping carts into mobile gardens so that individuals without garden space or who live in rented homes can grow their own fruits and vegetables. Individuals, including SNAP recipients, can become connected to shopping carts at a locally hosted “Cart Clinic.”

Overall, these three mobile initiatives are models of ways to increase access to fruits and vegetables and other healthy food choices for the low-income residents they reach, and have allowed SNAP recipients to make healthier food choices for themselves and their families.

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