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Would you shop at a mobile grocery store? Kroger is betting on it

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Would you shop at a mobile grocery store? Kroger is betting on it

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The Courier Journal's continued coverage of food insecurity in Louisville is supported by the University of Southern California Center for Health Journalism's 2018 National Fellowship.

Other stories in this series include:

Tell us: How do you get food where you live in Louisville?

Dare to Care relocation may bring job training, grocery to the West End

Shelby Park's Save-A-Lot closed with little warning to neighbors

Sorry, we're closed: How everyone is hurt when grocery stores shut down

In 30 seconds: What you should know about food deserts in Louisville

Tuition or food? How college kids use food pantries to help food insecurity

Louisville has a fresh food problem. Can we fix it?

'A real crisis in Louisville': Readers respond to food desert series

How a low-income Louisville neighborhood became a fresh food oasis

How can cities end food deserts? Here are 4 solutions that worked

Louisville families shouldn't be struggling to find fresh food

No grocery store in your neighborhood? Join forces to create one

People can't get to a grocery store easily. So these volunteers are driving them

Would you shop at a mobile grocery store? Kroger is betting on it 

Where You Live Determines How Much Your Eggs Cost at Kroger

How some residents get their food in Louisville's food deserts

Louisville's vacant grocery stores find new tenants. But they won't sell food

How these Louisville companies are helping employees buy affordable fresh produce

Can indoor farming fix food deserts? These Louisville students think so

Kentucky's hunger initiative earns national attention. But thousands still need food

Downtown Louisville is growing rapidly. So why doesn't it have a grocery store?

Is crime driving grocery stores out of Louisville's low-income communities?

Louisville kids are still at risk for lead poisoning. Here's how healthy eating can help

When will downtown Louisville get a grocery store? Here's what we found

Everything you need to know about Kroger's mobile grocery store in Louisville

Kroger's mobile market brings fresh food to Louisville neighborhoods without access

Courier Journal
Tuesday, January 15, 2019

By the end of 2019, a mobile grocery store is expected to be traveling Louisville's streets.

The concept is exactly what it sounds like: a tractor-trailer outfitted as a one-aisle grocery store. And it's an answer to Louisville's growing food access problem, which affects thousands of people citywide.

On Tuesday, Dare to Care Food Bank announced plans for the mobile market in partnership with Kroger and Louisville Forward, the city's economic development arm, which committed $60,000 to the project.

The food bank had discussed a mobile market publicly in recent months as a potential way to increase healthy food in neighborhoods that lack access to large-scale grocery stores.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture identified large swaths of Louisville as food deserts, meaning the 44,000 people who lived in those areas did not have the money or transportation they needed to buy healthy, affordable food.

In the three-plus years since, more than a dozen grocery stores of different sizes have shuttered citywide, often causing customers who'd relied on them to spend more time and money getting everyday staples.

Inadequate access to healthy food can lead neighborhoods to develop higher rates of such chronic illness as diabetes, heart disease and even asthma, lowering residents' life expectancy and costing communities millions of dollars in extra health care expenses.

In the past year, Dare to Care distributed 24 million pounds of free food to Kentuckiana families. But executive director Brian Riendeau said it's time for the nonprofit to take the next step in improving access for people who can afford to buy food — but who still struggle to get it.

The Fresh Picks Mobile Market pulls up to the downtown Milwaukee Area Technical College campus. The mobile store visits neighborhoods lacking access to quality fresh grocery items. (Photo: Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

"For nearly 50 years, Dare to Care has led this community to make sure everyone has the food they need to be healthy," Riendeau said in a news release. "Yet food deserts remain a stumbling block to achieving our vision of a hunger-free Kentuckiana.

"This exciting new program, made possible by Kroger's great operational support and Louisville Metro's financial support, brings a new approach to add to our arsenal of programs and partnerships who work tirelessly to help our struggling neighbors."

Details about when the market will launch and what neighborhoods it will visit are stilling being discussed. But the program already has a strong model to base itself on, led by a food bank and a Kroger subsidiary in Milwaukee.

The Fresh Picks Mobile Market — organized by the Hunger Task Force and Pick 'n Save — has been serving low-income residents in Milwaukee since 2015.

That year, the agencies converted a semi-trailer into a single-aisle, climate-controlled grocery store that could bring fresh produce, meat and dairy to underserved areas.

The market accepts debit cards, credit cards and Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, issued to families through the federal nutritional assistance program. It makes two stops daily Monday through Friday, and typically serves between 30 and 40 people at each stop, said Erin Grant, a local Kroger representative.

Kroger's Louisville division will be the first outside of Milwaukee to see if it can replicate the Fresh Picks market's success, Grant said.

Other divisions will be watching Louisville to see if they, too, could incorporate a mobile market as part of the company's overarching Zero Hunger, Zero Waste initiative, Grant said.

 

"The mobile market is a way for us to think outside our normal operating model in a way that can still get fresh, nutritious food to people in an innovative way," Grant said.

"We do have other areas that are going to be looking to us to see if it's something they can move forward in and grow in other areas as well. ... Because we have such a great relationship with the city and Dare to Care, we were like, let's go. Let's figure it out."

Grant said Kroger and Dare to Care will be 50-50 partners in the project.

Kroger will provide two associates to manage and place orders for the market, Grant said, while Dare to Care works with community leaders to determine the market's stops and organize volunteers.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the city is pleased to also be part of the new model, which will serve residents who need it the most.

"More of this kind of innovative thinking will help Louisville find even more equitable solutions to the challenges which keep all of its residents from experiencing the economic health found in other areas of our community," Fischer said in a release.

[This story was originally published by Courier Journal.]