Mobile market targets 'food deserts'

KANSAS CITY, Kansas - A new street vendor plans to flood local “food deserts” with rich produce markets. If successful, “Beans and Greens” promises to change lives.

The “Beans and Greens” program, founded by partners Menorah Legacy Foundation and Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, has three goals: create high demand for local foods, bring them to underserved communities and encourage people with low income to buy healthy produce.

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In Kansas City, Kansas’ Argentine community, children play in a food desert. From Emerson Park, the nearest grocery or market is 1.8 miles away.

So, a truck labeled “Beans and Greens” plans to become their mobile market.

“The truck and the program are designed to increase the access and affordability of fresh, local produced food,” said Gayla Brockman, director of Menorah Legacy Foundation.

Brockman said when her foundation partnered with KC’S Center for Urban Agriculture the planned to make seven local farmers’ markets food stamp or SNAP card friendly. Their plan helps both people with low income and farmers.

“Farmers are barely making a living on average,” said Katherine Kelly, executive director of the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture. “The beans and greens program is a way that farmers can access a new market.”

To boost sales, organizers offer incentives. For SNAP card users, every dollar spent on produce is matched by “Beans and Greens” organizers. They will match up to $30 a week for each family.

“Since we started in 2009, sales to SNAP card users went from $7,000 in a year up to $62,000 (in 2010),” Kelly said.

This spring, “Beans and Greens” will be on wheels serving three “food desert” communities, including Argentine. Eugene Brown overseas this mobile market.

“When if visit these communities I tell them you live in a food desert and we can help,” Brown said. “(I tell them) there’s a way we can do that with the beans and greens program, with the dollar for dollar match or the fact that we would bring produce to your community, what do you think? People’s eyes light up.”

The goal remains to fill up stomachs. The program aims to eventually saturate food deserts with markets that sell healthy, local foods.

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