Fight the food desert at your local bus stop

Farmers' markets and pop-up stands at transit stops offer access to healthy food.

Food deserts are a serious problem for a lot of people, particularly in poorer areas. The USDA defines a food desert as a geographic area with a scarcity of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods. Normally, this reflects an absence of grocery stores and farmers' markets. It makes eating healthy difficult or impossible for people, especially those without cars. Getting to a grocery store in a different neighborhood and lugging home bags of groceries is simply unfeasible for many who live in food deserts. Often, folks have to get by on what they can buy at the liquor store or mini mart around the corner.

Even better, many stands and farmers' markets are popping up at bus stops and subway stations.

A new solution to food deserts has been making its way to certain cities, however, in the form of pop-up farm stands serving poorer neighborhoods. Many of these are mobile in nature, able to move from neighborhood to neighborhood to follow foot traffic. These come in the form of retired city buses, food trucks, even bicycle trailers. Even better, many stands and farmers' markets are popping up at bus stops and subway stations. This combines access to fresh food with the convenience of public transit. A rider can hop off to grab some produce on their way home from work.

Take, for instance The Market at the Wright Stop Plaza transit hub in Dayton, Ohio. A partnership between the local government and Homefull, The Market allows people to shop for healthy food while they transfer buses. The Market, which also employs homeless people, accepts SNAP/EBT and offers a dollar for dollar match (up to $10) with a voucher for the customer's next visit.

Similarly, Tampa's transit authority, HART, is partnering with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and Florida Urban Organics for a farmers' market at the netp@rk Transfer Center. Atlanta's transit authority, MARTA, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank are operating the Fresh MARTA Market in the city's impoverished West End neighborhood, with plans to expand to each of MARTA's 37 stations depending on the success of the initial trial. Fresh MARTA Market also has a two-for-one SNAP deal, offers cooking classes and bike tours of nearby farms and provides counseling for food assistance programs.

Pop-up farm stands and markets are a great way to make locavores out of public transit riders, and vice versa. Even more importantly, though, they help provide access to fresh, healthy food to the people who need it most.

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