Fulton Fresh Mobile Market battles food deserts

Credit: UGA Fulton County Extension

Credit: UGA Fulton County Extension

Despite rising food prices, most households in North Fulton have access to healthy food. But for some residents living in “food deserts” obtaining fresh, in-season produce is not always easy.

According to the USDA, food deserts are defined as low-income areas that are at least one mile from any grocery store and has more than 40 households without access to a vehicle. Using this criteria, Fulton County has 127 food deserts, with several in Roswell and Sandy Springs.

To combat the situation, Fulton County in partnership with the University of Georgia Extension Service offers the Fulton Fresh Mobile Market. The mobile market offers 30-45 minute nutrition education courses including food preparation demonstrations. Participants leave with a free bag containing 8-12 pounds of in-season produce so they can take home what they’ve learned and recreate a meal. The need hasn’t gone away, so the program continues to grow each year.

“In the beginning it used to be just a summer market,” said Vonsuela Baker, County Extension Coordinator for UGA Extension in Fulton. “Since 2019, we decided to offer a summer and a fall market. And in 2020 and 2021 we offered a Fulton Fresh Kids’ Mobile Market that ran simultaneous with our adult Fulton Fresh Mobile Market.”

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday May 30 – June 29 and July 11 – Aug. 10 participants can choose between a morning or afternoon nutrition session and complete a survey before receiving their free produce. Demand is high with 50-60 people attending each session.

Fulton County fully funds the program which purchases produce from the State Farmer’s Market. Locations for each session are selected from applicants like local churches that serve these communities.

“In 2022 we offered a Fulton Fresh Kid’s Day Camp, and we’re offering it again this year,” added Baker. Available to rising 4th through 7th graders the camp is available weekly this summer at Camp Truitt 4H Education Center, 4300 Hershel Road in College Park. Registration is $100 per week and includes light breakfast, lunch and snack, fun activities, field trips and a camp shirt. Details and registration: www.tinyurl.com/FultonFreshKidsCamp.

According to the UGA Extension Service, in 2020 “the Fulton Fresh Kids’ Market distributed 9,597 pounds (approximately 4.8 tons) of fresh in-season produce to youth ranging from 18 months to 18 years old and reached approximately 1,500 households in 40 different zip codes.”

The program continues to evolve each year to better serve these communities with the goal of helping establish good eating habits leading to a reduction in the chronic illnesses associated with obesity.

More information: www.tinyurl.com/FultonFreshMobileMarket.