A mobile farmers’ market for senior and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program beneficiaries
The Threshold Foundation’s Mobile Farmers’ Market made its first delivery in June 2009, taking fresh strawberries, carrots, sweet corn, snap peas, tomatoes and other locally grown food to seniors at independent living facilities in Lancaster County and adjoining areas in Coatesville and Philadelphia. We also delivered fresh produce to residents of low-income neighborhoods throughout Lancaster City, where we are located.
Before getting started two local, full-time farmers met in person with project leaders to plan production for the farming segment of the program while 7 community members and the business plan developer met in person and via conference calls to go over the goals of the Mobile Market distribution project. This call identified elderly facilities nearest to Lancaster Pa., Delaware County, Chester County, Bucks, and Montgomery County, and Philadelphia, the data to be collected, customer characteristics, possible changes within the Lancaster City since survey had been completed, and overall advertisement and promotion of the project.
In April project leader took the mobile market truck to be painted once it was finished a community volunteer installed shelves, the project leader contacted elderly facilities and scheduled distribution dates and times.
Based on advice from the farmers 60 youth who were active farmers in the Dig It! summer program began to supplement the soil with various organic materials that helped support healthy plant growth for the planting season. One small family farmer was contacted he grew collard greens kale and water melons which we bought from him. It was decided that we would purchase any other produce that was needed from the local auction. In June a distributor was hired to distribute the produce grown by Dig It! youth farmers, to make purchases from local farmers and at the local auction as needed. Two youth who were farmers in the Dig It! summer program became his assistant.
The first year of data is in and a business plan is being developed.
In the winter program participants will go over the business plan and start planning for the coming season.
- Dig It! Vege Mobile
- Market Day at JCC in Philadelphia Pa
- Market Day in Lancaster
- Lancaster Market Day
- Mobile Market in Lancaster County
Address the needs of three groups
We seek to address the needs of three groups: (1) Seniors and residents of low-income neighborhoods lack of access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables. (2) Offer direct marketing opportunities for Farmers in our area of Lancaster County and southeastern Pennsylvania. (3) Provide Dig It! Young farmers with an opportunity to expand their marketing opportunities.
June to early October
During the period of June to early October, 2009, the Threshold delivered fresh produce to 14 different senior citizens centers and independent living facilities in Philadelphia, Coatesville and Lancaster County and circulated through low income areas of Lancaster City selling the fresh produce using a small box truck outfitted with shelves and coolers to carry the produce.
Some facilities turned down the MFM service this past year so we were not able to sell in adjoining areas of Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.
The organization kept records of financial transactions, which showed that sales totaled $12,611, and expenses (produce purchased at the Lancaster farmers auction, a local farmer, fuel, containers, signs and labels) totaled $7,531.
Of the 12,987 pounds delivered through this system, 1,562 (12.0%) was produced by the organization’s garden, 844 pounds.
The Lancaster City run was not as forthcoming as we had hoped this first year. We did have customers that really looked forward to our coming but for the most part a lot of the residents who did our survey a few months before we started had moved or began working low paying jobs at all kinds of hours and days. It was difficult to schedule a time that worked for all or most of the residents. We also found that same issue with the mixed low income apartment complexes what we mean by mixed is complexes where elderly and young adults with families live. We created door knob hanging fliers to let them know the day, time and location for our stops. This seemed to help a little.
Except for trips to three Senior Centers in Philadelphia, MFM sales trips, made to centers and neighborhoods in Lancaster, were not enough to cover costs, especially if we would have had to pay for personnel costs.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The MFM was an effective method of delivering fresh produce to senior citizens at three sites in Philadelphia, one in Coatesville, and 10 in Lancaster County where no markets exist for senior citizens to use farmers’ market vouchers. The MFM also served low-income families throughout Lancaster City during its four month trial. It is estimated that we served between 800 and 1,000 customers.
Eighty four percent of seniors and WIC clients surveyed said they were eating more fresh fruits and vegetables as a result, and 97% said they planned to use the market the following year.
The MFM project has also opened up new markets for one local farmer so far the farmer benefited from this new outlet for his crops. Although, if all real costs were considered, the Mobile Farmers Market is not yet an economically self-sufficient means of delivering fresh produce.
However, the Threshold Foundation has great potential and a variety of options are available to MFM, in considering how to build a sustainable system for increasing access to food for low-income residents and elderly in the greater Lancaster area and southeastern Pennsylvania.
Although we gained approval from Pennsylvania’s Housing Development Corporation (HDC) to sell produce at subsidized senior housing sites some of the sites turned our service down some of those sites that turned us down have already called to sign up for next season’s deliveries.
Threshold plans to change the delivery routes used in the summer 2009 demonstration project, focusing on the sites that produced adequate sales and discarding those that did not. This past summer we had an organization that placed orders once a week for their clients that worked really well. So with those areas that did not have adequate sales we plan to expand what we did with the organization mentioned above and call it a buying club: Where a group of neighbors can select items from a product list, combine their orders and then submit them to the distributor that would give us one drop off location per
neighborhood without making a run needlessly. Thus, the three centers in Philadelphia would be covered one day a month instead of making three separate trips any other sights that our close to each other would also be done in one day. More senior centers will be added now that we have a better idea of the time it takes. The Foundation has also met with the local office of aging and they have given dates for when they will be distributing Farmers Market vouchers at each of their centers fliers will go out to each senior center one month in advance so that seniors receiving vouchers will know of our scheduled visit.
Simple Gifts Farm
2121 River Road,
Washington Boro, PA 17582
Office Phone: 7176843596
20 East James St
Lancaster, PA 17602
Office Phone: 7174818734