A very important story that illustrates how the social determinants can undermine any desire by individuals to access healthy living strategies. As many enterprising organizers have learned, simply adding a farmers market deep within a food desert does not solve all of the nutritional problems faced by those residents. Additionally, the fact that markets do well when sitting on the “edge” of two or more communities (even with one being a food desert) and can therefore encourage bridging among the many residents has not been tested enough by planners or food system leaders.
As someone who was a community organizer in Columbus many years ago, I lived and worked in some of the very underserved areas described in this article and saw the effect on my neighbors and even on myself in those years. No doubt in my mind that the “mobile” in the term mobile markets in some cases should be focused on adding public transportation and shuttles from agencies to functioning markets that can offer a wide group of amenities to those new shoppers.
Finally, anyone who has heard my presentation on the “eras” of farmers markets which concludes with me asking those attending what the next era will be focused on will understand how gratified I am to see planners and regional governments include farmers markets in their strategies. Maybe this is the start of a beautiful friendship…
Crucially, Columbus wants to offer universal transit cards, which riders could use to pay for public transit as well as taxis, ride-hailing and car-sharing options. Kiosks would be installed at key locations, which would allow riders with (or without) credit cards or smartphones to add funds, call rides, and access real-time transit information. The city may also subsidize trips by private service providers like Uber and Car2Go. (A report released this week by the Center for American Progress highlighted this approach as a boon for low-income riders.) This could go a long way to address gaps in first mile/last mile connections, which can be a huge hurdle to low-income citizens getting the services they need.
The city is hoping a new BRT line and smarter technology can help families access crucial services.