By Anney Bolgiano, Staff Writer
What does a food desert look like? There are no cacti, and no vast horizons. You needn’t board a plane to see one, either. There are food deserts right here in Greensboro.
A food desert is a residential area with limited access to fresh produce. According to the USDA, a number of “indicators of access” determine if an area is a food desert:
Accessibility to sources of healthy food, as measured by distance to a store or by the number of stores in an area.
Individual-level resources that may affect accessibility, such as family income or vehicle availability.
Neighborhood-level indicators of resources, such as the average income of the neighborhood and the availability of public transportation.
There has been growing media coverage on food deserts. In March, NPR evaluated the recently upgraded Food Atlas Research Atlas, a more nuanced tool available to the public to find food deserts in their area. The atlas develops portraits of areas based on levels of income and household accessibility to fresh food and produce.
Nation wide, new attention and research is being directed towards food deserts. Greensboro and Guilford College are no exception.
A few Guilford students have decided to work in conjunction with the Guilford Farm to bring fresh produce to these areas. Taking a break from weeding, Korey Erb fills the Guilfordian in on the newly developed Mobile Market.
“(Mobile market is) a new kind of program that we’ve started through the Bonner program. (It is) a way for us as the Guilford farm and community volunteers to address food justice issues here in Greensboro,” said Erb.
The mobile market brings fresh produce to food desert areas in Greensboro, on a pay-as-you-can basis. The market aims to work in cooperation with communities; “It’s not a group of privileged folks going into an area and saying, ‘hey, I have access to this beautiful food and you need it!’ It’s a market situation, rather than a degrading hand-out situation.”
One of the concerns for the Mobile Market’s future is funding. If funding is scarce, the produce going to the market will be “seconds,” meaning it is perfectly edible, but not the most visually appealing. Erb hopes they do will not have to resort to this in the future, “(We want) grade-A, best stuff coming off the farm and going (to our mobile market.)”
Junior Helen Mandalinic, a Bonner Foundation Hunger Fellow, is also involved in establishing the Mobile Market. Once they had established the market on campus, the goal was to bring it to the community.
Mandalinic, who is especially instrumental in the business side of establishing the Mobile Market, said a difficult aspect was “learning to wait.”
“You still have to go through a lot of bureaucracy of the college. It was good prep for the ‘real world’” said Mandalinic.
The process involved liability research and looking at other models, such as CSA delivery.
The concept of the Mobile Market was established to benefit everyone involved, with the hope that it would become a “middle man between people who need access to fresh produce and farmers who need to sell their produce,” said Mandalinic.
Both Erb and Mandalinic have dreams for the future of the Mobile Market. Erb expressed hopes that strong leadership continues into the future. Mandalinic voiced many similar goals, and adds “we’re still waiting on a van.”