Pulled by a pick-up truck and operated out of a retrofitted trailer, the Good Food Bus (GFB) is a mobile market run through the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center in Lewiston, Maine. With the mission of bringing good food to where people live, work and play, the GFB is committed to providing fresh and local produce to neighborhoods and communities that suffer from a lack of access to healthy and affordable food. The GFB will be starting its fourth season of operations in June of 2018 and are in the process of critical reflection on what the successes and priorities of the GFB are and how they can be improved for the upcoming years. We, a group of students from Bates College, assisted in this assessment focusing specifically on investigating and improving A) waste management and storage, B) product display, and C) access and affordability. Research on these subjects was done through a review of both web and scholarly literature, outreach to other similar mobile market programs, listening sessions with community members and trips to the GFB and other markets.
Through our research and compilation of data, we have found that there are a few specific steps that the GFB could take to improve the efficiency, affordability, accessibility and fairness of the program. First, depending on available funds, there are many different options to mitigate food loss and maximize efficiency ranging from solutions as simple as ice-packs and as advanced as solar panels. Second, the fundamental structure of the product display is effective and can be enhanced through additional displays such as chalkboards, tables, and baskets that would improve accessibility and better highlight products. Finally, the GFB is doing a good job of reflecting the real cost of food while keeping prices low, but there are a few options for additional programs that would increase affordability without undercutting farmers.
While we hope that this synthesis provides helpful feedback and suggestions to the Good Food Bus team, we also hope that this can serve as an informative guide for internal reflection and assessment for other mobile market programs. In the report below, you will find background information on issues surrounding access to fresh, healthy and local food, detailed methodology outlining our approaches to finding information, and synthesized recommendations for improvements moving forward.
Andre, Adair; Cohen, Joakim; Gillett, Josephine; and Houde, Nell, "Improving Access, Affordability, Fairness, and Efficiency of the Good Food Bus Mobile Market" (2018). Community Engaged Research Reports. 62.