The Mobile Farmers’ Market, a Healthy Here initiative, is currently completing a successful second year of operation. In 2015, this “farmers’ market on wheels” provided 659 Albuquerque residents with fresh, affordable, organically grown fruits and vegetables, free healthy food samples, nutrition education and kid-friendly food-preparation activities. Thanks to expanded partnerships and additional locations, as of September 2016, the market had seen an overall 276 percent increase in sales.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, New Mexico has the second-highest rate of food insecurity in the country. The lack of fresh, healthy foods is most apparent in two of Albuquerque’s most populated areas: the urban International District and the rural South Valley. A drive through major streets in both communities reveals an abundance of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores but a scarcity of healthy food options like farmers’ markets and supermarkets. South Valley residents face the added problem of inadequate public transit. In food deserts like these, it’s not surprising to find high rates of diet-related diseases and obesity. Both communities have the highest mortality rates from heart disease and diabetes in Bernalillo County, as well as the highest rates of obesity among school-aged children and Native American, African American and Hispanic/Latino residents.
Each week, the van travels to six locations in these areas. It is making a positive impact by providing fresh fruits and vegetables from farms in the South Valley and other local areas. The project represents an innovative system that supports local cooperatives where farmers are paid full price for their produce. Sponsors offer subsidies so that prices are maintained at wholesale rates. The market accepts EBT from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, including Double-Up Food Bucks, which allows individuals to get 50 percent off their purchase); Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and senior checks.
Because four of the six Mobile Farmers’ Market sites are health clinics, healthcare providers are not only able to talk to patients about the importance of healthy foods during office visits; they can direct them to the market, where they can conveniently purchase produce and sample recipes.
The mobile market was borne of a community partnership that includes Presbyterian Healthcare Services, the Bernalillo County Community Health Council, Bernalillo County, Adelante, Agri-Cultura Network, Kids Cook! and Street Food Institute. The project was developed through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) award.
For the coming year, the Mobile Farmers’ Market will continue to increase access to nutritious food among low-income residents and will work to build community involvement, leadership development and food security. Increasing the number of local farmers will increase the overall supply of locally grown produce. Finally, there will be an effort to strengthen linkages among agricultural, entrepreneurial and health and human service sectors to create a vibrant local food economy within food deserts. By making healthy food options more accessible, individuals and families in Albuquerque are more likely to be able to lead happy and healthier lives.
For more information, visit bchealthcouncil.org/healthy-here