With a lack of grocery stores in Little Rock’s poorer neighborhoods, and a lack of transportation options, many in the city have long had trouble getting fresh fruits and vegetables.
Reliance on junk food from convenience stores or fast food outlets only adds to the problems of poverty by making it harder for people to eat healthy. But the city is partnering with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, U.S. Department of Agriculture and other organizations to offer what’s being called a mobile farmers market.
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola joined with other officials Tuesday for the formal debut of the Fresh 2 You market, which sells produce from a retrofitted former Central Arkansas Transit bus.
"We were able to showcase this mobile food bus to the neighborhood. We stop at specific locations each week so that people have the reliability to know it's going to be there," Stodola says.
On Tuesday, it stopped at the Parris Towers housing complex on Broadway, which will be a regular stop each week on that day. On Saturdays it will be at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library and Learning Center on West 10th Street. Stodola expects it will eventually expand to other locations on other days.
People enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also get an added benefit, Stodola says.
"It'll take not only SNAP coupons, but also what they call Double Up Bucks, so if you use your SNAP entitlement you can actually double the amount and get double the fresh fruits and produce."
Stodola says the inspiration for introducing this in Little Rock came from a discussion he had with Dr. Stacy Moak, a criminal justice professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. They were discussing the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables to each person's diet and the lack of availability in some areas.
He learned of a similar program that had proven to be successful in Memphis and, knowing the city's transit service was planning to replace some of its busses, suggested making one of them a mobile market.