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Mobile food truck aimed at ending urban food deserts

December 26, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A group in Kansas City, Kansas, is getting community members involved in the planning for a mobile grocery truck that would sell healthy and affordable food in neighborhoods that lack good grocery stores.

Some Wyandotte County residents gather weekly in the back room of a community health center, getting a say in everything from how to stock the food truck shelves to where the truck will park on which days.

The Dotte Mobile Grocer’s Mobile Market Community Council figures getting locals involved in the details will increase the chances that their grocery store in a food truck succeeds.

The closing of grocery stores has harmed many Kansas communities and left residents with impractical options for getting the fresh produce, meat and other healthy staples, the Kansas News Service reported. Often they are stuck with overpriced, less healthy offerings from bodegas and convenience stores. More than 800,000 Kansans don’t have easy access to fresh, affordable food.

Dorothy McField has seen one grocery store after another disappear in her more than 80 years living in Kansas City.

“As the larger ones took over, the smaller ones got run out of business,” she said.

The planned launch of the Dotte Mobile Grocer in January follows other efforts to use mobile grocery trucks to bring healthier products to so-called food deserts. The Kansas City, Missouri,-based Rollin’ Grocer ran for over a year but suspended operations in July.

Matt Kleinmann, a doctoral student at the University of Kansas, helped come up with the mobile grocer idea and facilitates the community council. He said grants will fund the truck through its first year, but organizers will then have to make their case to others for funding.

Involving community members in even the smallest decisions about the grocery truck can be time-consuming. But backers think having a large group of locals invested in the truck’s success will help it survive.

Kolia Souza, a food systems development specialist, said community-driven solutions are key to successful solutions in poor food access. When many local residents are invested in a project’s success, more people are working to prevent its failure. Operators hope that means they’ll stick around and make it work.

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