Amy Johnson refuses to let a little rain halt her from her daily mission. After powering up her converted trailer, she preps the cash register, checks her inventory, and opens for business. "The concept is to bring fresh food to areas that don't have a grocery store," says Johnson.
A Mobile Market now travels to 11 areas in Chattanooga considered food deserts, places like Glass Street, Avondale, and Orchard Knob.
Glass Street resident Kendra Cook just found out about it. "Its very hard to get to a store around here that has fresh fruits and vegetables."
Cook loves the concept. She depends on friends and relatives to take her to the grocery. When they're not available, she has to ride the bus. "And that's like two hours to get to a store and get back because you have to stop downtown and then catch another bus to get there. Its just a lot of hassle."
Cook loaded her basket with colorful carrots, corn, tomatoes, and peaches. The Mobile Market features some two dozen produce items along with pasta, beans, bread and health-conscious staples like low-fat milk, eggs, and cheese.
Johnson takes pride in the selection offered by this mobile market, even picking produce from local farms. Several items feature this harvested here label. "If I buy stuff from the farm, its picked the day they deliver it. And I put it on the truck the next day. Its pretty fresh, its about as fresh as it can get," says Johnson. Right now she gets local produce from farms in Ooltewah and Cleveland.
Access to healthy food in the inner city makes up only part of the equation. Johnson price shops area grocery stores and even offers weekly specials. "We're not trying to undercut them, but we're trying to stay in the range that its on the more affordable end."
Johnson hopes this concept will prove so successful, a stand alone market will open, even, if it puts her out of business.
The YMCA, Chattanooga Food Bank, Step One and Gaining Ground invested in the mobile market. Items can be purchased with cash, check or credit card... And soon SNAP benefits will be accepted.
Here's the current schedule for the Mobile Market:
Emma Wheeler Homes (9am to 11am)
Eastlake Park (12pm to 2pm)
New City Fellowship Church (3pm to 5pm)
Glass Street at North Chamberlain (9am to 11am)
College Hill Courts (12pm to 2pm)
The Bethlehem Center (3pm to 5pm)
Gateway Towers (9am to 11am)
Avondale Recreation Center (12pm to 2pm)
Cromwell Hills Apartments (3pm to 5pm)
Orchard Knob Elementary School