Food on a bus?


A retired Metro Transit bus will become a non-profit mobile grocery store on the East Side come summer. The bus will be retrofitted with shelving and coolers and redecorated on the outside with images of fresh produce. (submitted photo)

New mobile groceries will come to East Side

Come June, East Siders could have a pop-up grocery store within walking distance of their homes.

Twin Cities Mobile Market, a project of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, will be cruising around the East Side in an old Metro Transit bus with a variety of fresh groceries on hand. The non-profit project is tentatively scheduled to start in June.

The mobile store will provide basics to make from-scratch meals, including fresh produce, dairy, cuts of meat, spices and some dry goods, says Leah Driscoll, manager of the market, who came up with the idea and works at Wilder Foundation.

The food will be bought at wholesale prices and marked up just enough to cover the market’s operation costs. Thus, the price of food at the mobile market would be lower than at stand-alone grocery stores, Driscoll said.

The food will be available for purchase via EBT and SNAP in addition to cash and credit cards.

The bus will likely go to a number of East Side locations, with a focus on the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood, based on a city-wide survey of residents. The survey indicated that only a fifth of Dayton’s Bluff residents polled buy their groceries in their own neighborhood.

With many residents dependent on public transit, the hope is that the mobile food market would make it easier to get fresh food within residents’ own neighborhood.

While the group is still raising money, they managed to acquire the bus and have the backing of a number of partners, including the Latino Economic Development Center.

Through funding help from Latino center, they’ll put a total of $55,000 into the bus, retrofitting it and adding equipment such as a generator, refrigerators and a freezer. The group is launching an IndieGoGo online donation campaign in May to raise money for an initial purchase of food, and then will be looking to raising an additional $100,000 to cover operational costs.

The Cub Foods in the Sun Ray Shopping Center will be providing some of the food, and Maplewood-based Yocum Oil will provide diesel to power the bus and generator for the first year, Driscoll said.

In addition, an ad agency has taken the group on as a pro-bono client and will do logo design as well as design for the decoration of the bus.

The bus will get a makover inside and out. The exterior will feature images of fresh produce, Driscoll said, “so it will be bold and beautiful.”

John Flory, director at Latino Economic Development Center, said his group is helping to provide the funding because it plays a part in a larger project of LEDC -- the bus will likely be stored at the soon-to-come East Side Enterprise Center, a project of the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, LEDC, and other community partners.

The Enterprise Center will house large walk-in coolers with fresh produce from area farmers, and serve as a means for small-time farmers to store produce. The Twin Cities Mobile Market will likely partner with the local growers to distribute some of their produce.

Driscoll got the idea for the mobile market while pursuing a master’s degree through Wilder Foundation’s Kingston Fellowship Program. She did her thesis on urban food scarcity, and came across the mobile market concept, which has been tried in other cities across the U.S.

After studying the idea, she and her husband pursued initial startup funds through a social enterprise competition offered through the Colonial Church of Edina.

Currently, Driscoll is reaching out to community members to hear what they would want out of the market. Twin Cities Mobile Market staff will be showing up at a number of East Side community events to tell neighbors about the group, and ask for input. The group will be at the following events:

• Saturday, May 17, East Side Food Hub Plant Distribution - 5/17/2014  - at First Covenant Church.     

• Saturday, May 17, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the CLUES Community Bike Event

For more information about the Twin Cities Mobile Market, visit http://www.wilder.org/Programs-Services/tcmm/Pages/default.aspx or www.facebook.com/TwinCitiesMobileMarket.

Contact Patrick Larkin 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

 

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