The Freshmobile Initiative
On July 2, 2012, the Freshmobile initiative took its first step toward helping more residents of Dane County gain access to fresh fruits, vegetables, juice, and other grocery items. This 40 foot mobile grocery store has eleven stops throughout the area that are strategically located to serve neighborhoods located in the midst of food desserts or food swamps.
Residents of certain neighborhoods in the city were found to only have easy access to gas station food and drinks or fast food which deems the area a “food swamp”. Areas known as “food deserts” are usually located in more industrialized and suburban areas. Housing tends to be more affordable here yet many low-income families live with limited means of transportation and rely heavily on busses and cabs. This can make access to descent grocery stores almost impossible and usually expensive.
Jeff Maurer, owner of Fresh Madison Market and creator of the Freshmobile, managed to gain support from numerous companies including Meriter Health Services and Physician’s Plus Insurance. Food deserts are often linked to health problems resulting from poor dietary habits so it is logical, and essentially a good investment, for such companies to support this cause. Donations and loans paid for this custom truck and Maurer hopes in the next couple years, this non-profit service will be completely self sustainable.
Right now, the Allied Drive and Leopold Elementary locations are seeing the most turnout. The Leopold location is across the street from a large apartment complex which houses a sizable hispanic population. Popularity in the Allied Drive area is likely due to the previous exposure there. Prices in the mobile market are lower than those of the campus store and therefore make it even more affordable for low-income families to eat fresher, healthier foods. Access is not restricted, however, and the service is not a food pantry as anyone is welcome to shop there and take advantage of having a market across the street from them. This can be very convenient for those working near a stop who are looking for healthy options for lunch. However the service is utilized, Maurer hopes it will catch on and encourage healthier eating habits in children and in turn, their parents, leading to happier and a more productive community.
You can make donations or find out more about the Freshmobile Initiative HERE.
Fresh Madison Market is located right on the UW Madison campus. This gives students convenient access to fresh fruits and vegetables, something the store’s owner says was difficult for his daughters to come by when they were in college.
The Freshmobile is restocked with goods in front of the store before it heads out to one of its eleven locations around Madison.
Charles holds the door for a couple of customers at their Arbor Hills location. Charles was hired in July and trained specifically for this job after he was suggested to Maurer by friends in his neighborhood. Charles had been doing some farming work in the Allied Drive area so he was not new to produce. He is a single father and works full-time driving and tending The Freshmobile. “He [Maurer] gave me this great opportunity and here I am.”
Ashley helps a customer who walked from her home, across the street, to stock up on fresh vegetables.
The Freshmobile stocks a wide variety of more common produce as well as more unique fruits and vegetables including jicamas, cactus, serrano, and plantains. The items available are adjusted according to demand and suggestions.
A teacher from a nearby school shops for her class at the East Washington stop.
The Freshmobile carries a variety of salad greens, juices and milks in their refrigeration unit. Sodas are not available here as the goal is to provide healthy options that are not available in food swamps.
The produce is sorted through daily, to insure everything is in best condition.
Creator of the Freshmobile Initiative, Jeff Maurer, in his store, Fresh Madison Market. He is in the process of opening more Fresh Markets on college campuses in hopes of providing affordable, fresh, produce and goods for college students.