How Mobile Food Markets are Evolving to Fight Increased Food Insecurity
April 11, 2023
Published April 11th, 2023. Sam Talarczyk, Director of Operations
Food insecurity is on the rise, and We Don’t Waste is utilizing our Mobile Food Markets as a way to create instant food access in neighborhoods around Denver. As the local need for food access increases due to recent SNAP benefit reductions, and record levels of inflation on food, our Mobile Food Markets have been growing and evolving to better serve our neighbors in need.
Mobile Food Markets are free, pop-up farmers markets, operating in food deserts around Denver, and the food supplied has been recovered from various segments of the food industry. The markets run around 8 times a month in rotating neighborhoods and provide families and individuals with limited food access a way to bring home fruits, vegetables, meat, and more at no cost. By utilizing recovered food, we are preventing waste in our landfills, and creating meals from quality food that otherwise would have needlessly been thrown away.
Up to 40% of all food produced in the U.S. ends up in a landfill, and with much of that being edible, it creates an opportunity to repurpose these overages and immediately generate increased food access.
There exists an unparalleled urgency in redistributing this food as Mobile Food Market attendance is up 63% from this time last year. This is about 10,000 individuals a month. With an even more significant reduction in benefits, the senior demographic has increased attendance by 93%.
In order to support increasing turnout to these Mobile Food Markets, we’re adapting our programs to better support our community.
- We’re increasing the amount of food available at each market.
This is perhaps the most simple, yet most important element of how we are evolving our markets. Each individual checked into the market likely represents a household of 4 or more, so the increase in attendance results in an exponential output of food. We’re onboarding new food donors, expanding our relationships with current partners, and doing so as quickly as we can.
If you or someone you know is involved in the food industry in any capacity and would like to help create food access, please contact our Food Acquisition Specialist at Food@wedontwaste.org to learn how to become involved as a food donor.
- We’re working with local partners to provide additional resources and information on free programs in the Denver area.
Food insecurity is often the result of financial difficulty, which can mean that other necessities may be difficult to come by as well. By providing additional access to resources, like through our nonprofit partner WeeCycle, the Mobile Food Markets become a more well-rounded program able to support the whole family. From toothbrushes or reduced-cost healthcare to infant formula, We Don’t Waste’s Markets have become a one-stop shop for essentials.
- We’re identifying new Market locations and increasing the total number of Markets in a month.
There are over 50 food deserts in Denver, which means there are many avenues to pursue in terms of new locations. Part of the method going into identifying these new spots is looking at the food desert neighborhoods that are not currently served by We Don’t Waste or other nonprofits in the area. We are finding neighborhoods in which there may be limited access to nonprofit support, which would make the Mobile Food Markets even more effective. After locating potential areas, we look at local organizations or schools to partner with in order to have consistent access to space to create these markets.
- We’re transitioning back to walk-up style Markets and creating accessibility options.
After creating drive-thru markets to accommodate pandemic safety requirements, we are moving the markets back to walk-ups, as you would imagine for a traditional farmer’s market. The walk-thru style is safe, fast, better for the environment, and offers more choice to participants, but it also presents its own unique challenges in terms of accessibility.
Our team is currently expanding available accessibility options, making it easier for those with limited mobility to participate comfortably. From grocery carts and a market walk-thru buddy system to a hotline specifically for questions about accessing markets, our goal is that everyone will have equal access to get the food they want.
- We’re advocating for change on a local and national level.
The issues of food insecurity and food access might not be something you see on billboards every day, but they are issues that frequently appear on ballots on both a state and national level. We inform our community about the issues as they arise, and how they can vote to protect and expand food access. Creating systemic change is one of the most effective ways to prevent surges in food insecurity like the one we are currently experiencing, and all it takes is informed voters from our community of volunteers, market participants, and neighborhood partners.
One of the recent examples is the bill SB22-087, Healthy Meals For All Public School Students. With this bill passing, public school students will now be guaranteed access to at least two meals a day in participating school districts, helping to potentially alleviate food insecurity for millions of children.
You and/or your company can help provide the lifeline of food during this surge in need for food access; contact our team to learn how you can get involved with We Don’t Waste.