Truck Turns Food Desert Into Oasis
If you can’t build it, drive it. That appears to be the philosophy of MoGro, a new mobile, food truck-like grocery in the Southwest designed to overcome barriers to affordability and access to healthy foods in underserved rural areas.
Short for "Mobile Grocery," MoGro is the vision of Rick and Beth Schnieders, who in 2010 decided to create "a sustainable solution that would increase access to fresh food, provide nutritional education, and empower local communities while creating a positive return for the company," according to MoGro’s website. Mr. Schnieders is the retired chairman and CEO of Sysco Corp. while Ms. Schnieders has been a food and nutrition advocate for the past 35 years.
With an initial focus on rural American Indian communities in the Southwest, a soft launch of the first MoGro on April 18 in the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico doubled expected projections. MoGro plans to reach up to six pueblos by December 2012.
Twice per week, the MoGro truck delivers more than 200 fresh, refrigerated and frozen items, including fruits, vegetables, baking supplies, dairy products, meats and beans. Through a partnership with The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, it also hosts nutrition workshops as well as fitness classes.
Mr. Schneiders said the truck is basically a converted beer truck with additional refrigeration, according to the GOOD webzine.
"The real reason we’re doing this is because we love this part of the country," Mr. Schneiders said. "We love the people. It’s an absolute crying need. My wife and I have a biding interest in food, agriculture, and nutrition. And we wanted to see if we could make this work."
Meanwhile, at least a few other mobile grocers are reaching underserved urban cities, although they appear to be of a not-for-profit variety and lack refrigeration.
In Chicago, a bus donated by the Chicago Transit Authority and stocked with vegetables makes twice-weekly stops in the city’s neighborhoods lacking grocers. Mobile Produce Market is the brainchild of Chicago-based non-profit called Food Desert Action.
In Southwest Atlanta, Fulton County Cooperative, part of the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension, recently launched a twice-a-week mobile unit serving fruits and vegetables. The units also hold healthy food cooking demonstration, nutrition information, healthy cooking recipes and health screenings.
- Food Desert Solution: Mobile Supermarkets – GOOD
- MoGro Mobile Food Truck Fills "Food Deserts" with Healthy Eats – Inhabitit
- Mobile market brings healthy food to communities – ABC Local Chicago
- Mobile Farmers Market Brings Fresh Produce to Fast-Food Districts in Southwest Atlanta – Cascade Patch
Discussion Questions: What do you think of a mobile wheels solution to address the issue of food deserts in the U.S.? Should traditional grocers get involved in similar efforts? Can the concept work as a for-profit business?