Hebni Nutritional Consultants recognized the need and demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in their communities. They decided they couldn’t wait for more stores to open or existing ones to provide healthier options. Weaver and her team were inspired by a 2009 study published in Ethnicity & Disease, the official journal of the International Society on Hypertension in Blacks, in which a mobile market made a significant positive impact on the health of the study’s subjects.
“We wanted to bring that idea into the 21st century,” Weaver says. But Weaver wasn’t the first to have that light-bulb moment. Mobile markets are filling grocery gaps in communities across the country.
One notable example is My Street Grocery, which launched in 2012 as a partnership between Whole Foods Market and a network of healthcare providers, social services and community groups in Portland, Oregon. Developed by Whole Foods Market food access coordinator and social entrepreneur Amelia Pape, the mobile market continues to operate as a pop-up market four days a week. Pape and her staff deliver affordably priced and locally sourced food to communities where barriers preventing access to fresh food include cost, mobility, transportation, language and cooking skills. In addition to food, Pape’s mobile market has brought a much-needed focal point to the communities it serves, acting as a gathering place for neighbors and a platform for community improvement.
The Hebni team hopes the Fresh Stop Mobile Market will achieve the same result. It is supported by community partners Florida Hospital, Orange County government, Winter Park Health Foundation and the Florida Department of Health. Outfitted with special refrigerated racks to keep produce fresh, the bus also features an onboard kitchen that will be used for demonstration purposes – functioning appliances require food truck certification. The Fresh Stop team is currently working with county leaders to finalize the first 16 stops. In the meantime, customers can sign up for email updates (which will eventually include a bus route schedule) at thefreshstopbus.com, and follow the bus on Facebook and Twitter.