by Jeannie Howard
Farmers Markets have long been a resource for fresh, high quality foods at reasonable prices; however, even with the abundance of farmers markets throughout the Bay Area, some people do not have convenient access to those high quality local foods let alone at reasonable prices. Using a box truck turned mobile market, Fresh Approach has been working to change this one community—one route—at a time with their Mobile Farmer’s Market.
Fresh Approach’s aim is to increase access to healthy foods, especially to low income communities, according to Laura deTar, Program Director. The Mobile Farmer’s Market has proven to be a powerful tool to expand their reach. “We target communities where folks don’t have easy access to affordable high quality foods,” she said. “We know that the food access points in those communities are not what the community wants and so we are able to fill this hole.”
Packed to capacity, the Mobile Farmer’s Market brings fresh produce to communities along several routes throughout Contra Costa, Alameda, and San Mateo counties. In addition to making these foods more physically accessible, Fresh Approach has also made the prices more accessible to a larger group of community members. Through their Matching Program, Fresh Approach offers a fifty percent discount to individuals that receive CalFresh, WIC, SSI, SSDI, or Medi-Cal benefits. “So, if a customer spends ten dollars, they get another ten dollars for free,” explained deTar. “With the discount we have expanded and increased the number of folks that are shopping our trucks and benefiting from high quality, fresh produce.” Close to 65 percent of customers utilize the Matching Program and Fresh Approach hopes to continue to increase that percentage.
Serving more than twenty thousand people annually, both directly through the individual shoppers and indirectly from those that eat the foods purchased at the trucks, The Mobile Farmer’s Market is so much more than simply a food truck. “A big part of what we are trying to do with the trucks is to encourage people to engage in their local food system,” said deTar. Along with promoting the locations where customers can find local foods, Fresh Approach also offers Veggie Rx classes. “A lot of folks are lacking access and also lacking the confidence to work with fresh produce so, we offer free community-based nutrition classes that give folks a chance to come t