May 26, 2017

Mobile Farmer's Market!

Island Grown Initiative to Launch Mobile Farmer’s Market

New program aims to expand local food access to low-income islanders

Earlier this month, Island Grown Initiative (IGI) was awarded a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to launch a mobile farmer’s market on Martha’s Vineyard.  The purpose of the grant is to bring locally grown produce to low-income neighborhoods on the island.  The grant will be used to purchase and retrofit a truck that can house the market as well as for start-up and equipment needs.  The grant does not cover operating expenses.  

The mobile market will be a truck stocked with reduced-price locally grown fruits and vegetables.  It will travel across the island, setting up shop in neighborhoods that have low-income, elderly, and/or disabled residents, including Morgan Woods, Hillside Village, Woodside Village, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Oak Bluffs Public Library.  Its logistically challenging and unaffordable for most of these families to access the West Tisbury Farmers Market or the many farm stands around the island. 

The mobile market will operate in the evening so working families can shop at the end of their work day.  The market will be stocked with local produce that is purchased at wholesale prices from island growers and sold with a small mark up to cover operating expenses.  IGI currently has two suppliers participating in the program and hopes to sign up more.

The mobile market will hopefully launch by mid-July and operate into the early fall to take advantage of the harvesting season.  At that point the program will be evaluated and adjusted as needed.   During the pilot year IGI plans to only sell fresh fruits and vegetables, but hopes to expand the offerings from the market to eggs, dairy, meat, and locally sourced prepared foods in future years.  

The launch of the mobile market comes at the perfect time to take advantage of the first year of the Healthy Incentives Program.  The HIP program, operated by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, allows SNAP beneficiaries to get up to $80 a month of additional benefits when they buy locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables from farmer’s markets, mobile markets, CSAs and farm stands. 

Since last fall's Food Equity Summit, there have been several new programs aimed at alleviating hunger and food insecurity on the island. The Boys and Girls Club has started a healthy snacks program thanks to the generosity of several local chefs, restaurant owners and donors. Starting in July there will be a pilot summer food service program that will provide lunches to children who are part of the subsidized food programs during the school year. The Food Pantry which traditionally closed in the summer will remain open one day a week during this season. The Mobile Market is the direct result of the broader effort to reach more of our island neighbors in need.

For more information, please contact Sophie Abrams at sophie@igimv.org