Bus-Stop Farmers' Markets Bring Fresh Produce to Food Deserts

Rendering of the upcoming West Louisville FoodPort, a 24-acre, $50 million project designed by architect Rem Koolhaus's firm.

© OMA

By James Oliver Cury Posted February 29, 2016

Four cities—Atlanta, Dayton, Louisville and Tampa—are launching shopping hubs at major transit thoroughfares.

Chances are, if you're reading this, there's a market selling organic produce just a short walk or car ride away. Don't take this for granted: Millions of Americans live in "food deserts" where access to fruits, vegetables and other healthy diet options just don't exist. Put another way: Imagine if your only supermarket was the 7-11 and you had no car. What do you feed your family?

Cities across the country have attempted to address this problem, which afflicts 23.5 million, mostly low-income Americans, by establishing farmers' markets in affected areas. Now, organizers are taking a slightly different approach—by setting up shops at local bus stations and other public transit hubs. In the last eight months alone, four cities have launched pop-up-style farmers' markets:

In Dayton, Ohio, shoppers can go to a new food source, called "The Market," which opened in September at Wright Stop Plaza, the main downtown transit center. Homeless people staff the shop, gaining employment experience, local farmers have a new place to sell their bounty, and visitors get vouchers for future purchases to offset costs. It's open four days a week.

A pilot program launching at the netp@ark Transfer Center in Tampa, Florida, is somewhat limited (it's only open on the second Wednesday of each month, from 3pm to 6pm), but patrons can learn how to cook some of the foods they buy—and how to grow them. The USDA contributed $98,000 to make this happen.

Commuters traveling to and from the subway stop in Atlanta, Georgia's West End neighborhood got their own market starting last July. It's open only one day a week from spring through fall, but offers fresh produce, cooking demos, a weekly bike tour of nearby urban farms, and information about food assistance programs. If successful, the city will open a farmers market at each of the 37 MARTA stations that make up Atlanta's transit authority.

The largest and most high-profile food hub in the country will open in Louisville, Kentucky, later this year. Designed by architect Rem Koolhaus's firm, OMA, the West Louisville FoodPort is a 24-acre, $50 million project featuring the largest indoor "vertical" farm in the country, as well as a 60,000-square-foot facility housing retailers, restaurants, and educational organizations. It's expected to generate more than 300 jobs and provide workforce training that can spur development in the local food economy.

Read more about food deserts at the American Nutrition Association.

(h/t Modern Farmer)

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