Youngstown was acknowledged as a “Food Desert” by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, recognizing that many residents faced multiple obstacles acquiring fresh food due to a lack of grocery stores within the city limits. The USDA definition of a food desert includes location of stores, transportation, and food costs. It is well documented that a lack of fresh food is a contributing factor to poor health conditions especially in underserved communities of color. In response to this, ACTION formed a partnership with Flying High, Inc. specifically, their GROW Urban Farm program to offer Pop Up Markets throughout various locations in the city offering fresh fruits and vegetables. As we enter our fourth year of markets we recognized:
- Due to Northeast Ohio weather, we can only serve residents June through Obviously, the need is year-round.
- Our most successful sales events were in locations that were consistent, that were promoted well ahead of time, and that reached our most vulnerable
- In our first two years we sold over 15,000 pounds of produce and impacted over3000
- The actual implementation of the market has created opportunity for individuals to learn marketable skills in the food
- The market provides a valuable opportunity to connect with residents and build In addition to fresh food, we have offered voter registration, COVID-19 vaccinations, nutrition information and information on community events.
Partnerships and Collaborations
There are multiple agencies and nonprofits that recognize the need for better access to healthy food in the Mahoning Valley, particularly the city of Youngstown.
- ACTION and Flying High, Inc have worked successfully for three years collaborating on the Pop-Up Flying High is developing a Food Hub in the Campus of Care that will serve as the vendor connection for the mobile market.
- Flying High will own, insure, and maintain the vehicle as well as work with local farmers and vendors to stock the mobile They will also train n and monitor the market manager and three additional positions.
- ACTION will work to promote the mobile market, develop relationships with key people at each stop, provide nutrition information to shoppers, and schedule volunteers and additional
- MYCAP has provided a secure location, vouchers for seniors in their programs as well as marketing and promotional
- WIC has been a successful location providing additional coupons for young
- As a member of Healthy Community Partnership’s Healthy Retail Food Team, we have been supported by their work and research.
- ACTION has strong partnerships with our member congregations who support the markets through promotion, financial support, and
- Members of The Mahoning Valley District of the United Methodist Church have long been in conversation regarding addressing the food dessert issues as part of their ministry in the Mahoning After several meetings with members of our ACTION team and theirs, they wish to join our work. One of their possible contributions would be a mission intern to work with this program.
- We are studying success stories from Mobile Markets across the country in including STARK FRESH in neighboring Stark County, FRESH APPROACH in the California Bay Area, REAL FOOD FARM in the Baltimore region.
Our primary goal is to have a fully functioning, stocked and operating mobile market by April 2022. We believe that everyone should have equal access to healthy food. We believe that even if the city or other organizations were to successfully open a grocery store, that will serve one side of the city, one portion of our population. There will remain those residents who face transportation and location obstacles. A mobile market could also provide services to the multiple senior and disabled housing areas in the city. Secondary, yet equally important goals or benefits include:
- serve the 800 residents in Mahoning and Trumbull County who will no longer benefit from the Mercy Health Prescription
- providing multiple grocery options in addition to fruits and vegetables made possible with freezer and refrigerator on the mobile
- accepting multiple forms of payment so that shoppers can use their benefits such SNAP (including the double up program), WIC, Senior Produce These are payment forms that we currently accept at the Pop-Up Markets.
- Skill development and job training in the food
- Significant relationship building with frequent customers in pre-designated
- While we have not worked out the details for a schedule, the vehicle will make several stops multiple days a week at pre-designated, pre-promoted locations throughout the Mahoning Valley with a focus on targeted areas in the food desert.
As we begin this adventure, we have been met with great response from the public, our funders and the media. Thank you for your patience as we adjust and finesse our schedule. Our goal is for this to be supported by the community as private investors, granters, and generous donors.