by Daniel Wirtheim
Maybe the most obvious solution to the Triad’s food-insecurity problem is to bring a grocery into a food desert, or a low-income neighborhood with limited access to a grocery store. But this solution is often easier said than done and might be better addressed at the center of what reliable transportation our cities have.
Anyone who can walk to a bus stop could make it to the city’s bus depot, and every city in the Triad has one. But none of them sell produce.
Bus depots might be the best way to get families experiencing food insecurity to a reliable source of real food.
Two pop-up produce markets debuted at bus depots in Atlanta and Dayton, Ohio in 2015. The Atlanta market operates once a week and the Dayton market three days a week and both accept SNAP and EBT payments — a pretty crucial element when selling to families in low-income food deserts.
According to a report by Dayton public radio station WYSO, organizers of the Dayton pop-up market were initially worried that only families with a disposition to buy vegetables would use the markets and their appeal would be limited. So the market commissioned cooking and nutritional classes right in the bus depot.
We have all the necessary tools to do something similar here in the Triad. It might take a coalition of local agencies to get a market going. A group like the Mobile Oasis Farmers Market, which offers produce in food deserts in Greensboro and High Point, might team up with the Guilford County Public Health Department to provide some cooking demonstrations along with the groceries. The Mobile Oasis Farmers Market already accepts SNAP and EBT and the bus depot may be where they’ll reach the most people living in food deserts with the time to talk about eating habits.
Because between transfer rides, which connect at the depot, there’s inevitably a period of time that a person spends idling and waiting for their next bus. And with a little reassurance and the prospect of a shopping trip cut short, the bus depot might be their new shopping center.