Human Services / Poverty, Hunger & Shelters

Solving the Food Desert Problem

A Food Desert is a term I had never heard before.  As I researched the term, I discovered it was a low income neighborhood without a grocery store.  This was nothing I had seen or experienced before, but here it was.  A place where locals had to travel far distances, often without adequate transportation, to get fresh food.

In St. Louis, Missouri, one non-profit sought to help with this problem.  The St. Louis MetroMarket was born.  They are a renovated bus, donated by the city itself, that visits corporate parks and low income neighborhoods chock full of fresh fruit, veggies, meats, dairy and bread.  They supply nutritional information and food demos, showing the residents how they can prepare and cook healthy meals using fresh food.

The genius of this nonprofit is how the break up their business.  They charge a membership fee, or Fresh Pass, of $150, annually, to customers.  However, if you live in a Food Desert Community and live below the poverty line, that fee is waived.  The food is also on a sliding scale.  People that paid for a Fresh Pass pay retail prices, whereas those that had the fees waived, get the food at cost.  The money they raise from corporate parks and other customers help subsidize the people that cannot afford it.

“We take the revenue that we make from the corporate campuses, and use that to offset the work that we’re doing in low-income communities,” Jeremy Goss, a Saint Louis Medical Student and one of the founders of MetroMarket, said. “For every corporation we take on as a customer, we can subsidize this work in a low-income community.”

There has been a lot of conversation about eating healthy and taking charge of one’s own diet.  But, I don’t think enough has been brought up about the local communities that find that the most difficult…Food Desert Communities.  The MetroMarket is an ingenious way of dealing with a very real problem.  And through this nonprofit and others like it, those communities will have viable options to make healthy choices.

Original Article by: Elyse Wanshel, Huffington Post

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