An oasis in the desert? The benefits and constraints of mobile markets operating in Syracuse, New York food deserts
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In this paper we critically examine mobile markets as an emerging approach to serving communities with limited healthy food options. Mobile markets are essentially farm stands on wheels, bringing fresh fruits, vegetables and other food staples into neighborhoods, especially those lacking traditional, full service grocery stores, or where a significant proportion of the population lacks transportation to grocery stores. We first trace the emergence of contemporary mobile markets, including a brief summary about how and where they operate, what they aim to achieve, who they serve, and the general constraints on their operations. We then report case study findings that examine the operational benefits and challenges of two mobile markets operating in Syracuse, New York. Our research suggests that although Syracuse’s mobile markets play a positive role in alleviating geographic, economic and social barriers to fresh food access experienced by elderly, immobile and low income residents living in Syracuse’s urban neighborhoods, the impacts of the mobile markets are dampened by both operational constraints and larger political and economic forces.
KeywordsFood access Food deserts Food justice Farmers’ markets Mobile markets
Community Development Corporation
- CDC MM
Community Development Corporation Mobile Market
Community supported agriculture
Electronic benefits transfer
Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Regional Farmers’ Market
- RFM MM
Regional Farmers’ Market Mobile Market
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
ERS United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service
Women, Infants, and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program
We are grateful for the time and insights of mobile market staff, customers and associates in helping to advance this research. We appreciate the feedback of our anonymous reviewers and the research assistance of Sean Keefe, Jeremy French-Lawyer, and Lucas Barros-Correia. Our research was funded by the Sustainable Enterprise Partnership, a joint initiative of Syracuse University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and the Syracuse Center of Excellence.
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