Mobile produce truck

Washington D.C. area neighborhoods considered “food deserts” will soon have access to fresh fruits and vegetables via a converted school bus “Mobile Market” courtesy of a local non-profit group comprised of nine restaurants. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s market on wheels will bring healthy food options to communities where a majority of the people living there are at or below the poverty line.

Food deserts were recently determined by the USDA to be an urban area that is more than a one-mile radius from supermarkets or farmers markets (and more than 10 miles in rural areas) as shown on the interactive Food Desert Locator Map. Eighty-two percent of the nation’s food deserts are in urban areas, and many of the people living in them rely on public transportation, which can make grocery shopping difficult. There are an estimated 13 million Americans who are considered to be living in food deserts.

Scheduled to hit the streets in October, the Mobile Market, which will run on biodiesel provided by DC Biofuels, will include customized shelving, an awning to shade delicate fruits and vegetables from the sun, refrigerators and freezers. The bus will also be painted with the help of students in the DC Farm to School Network, a program designed to bring local, healthy fruits and vegetables into area schools, and the bus will be used as an educational tool focused on the benefits of healthy and sustainably harvested food.

The absence of fresh fruit and vegetable farmers markets and supermarkets in urban areas often means an abundance of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, some of which are now accepting food stamps — a move food experts like Marion Nestle consider a blow to the nation’s poor and a contributing factor to the number of diet-related illnesses affecting millions of Americans.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: ctsnow