Mobile food markets to take on Dayton's food deserts

Two new organizations are striving to take fresh groceries directly to those living in Dayton's food deserts.

The Dayton Mobile Market plans to launch this summer, while the Gem City Food Trolley hopes to raise $10,000 to get off the ground by the end of May.

Dayton Mobile Market
Spearheaded by a team that includes Tipp City’s Matthew DeNuzzo and Briana Snyder, Dayton Mobile Market plans to use a refrigerated truck and trailer to take produce, lean meats, dairy and non-perishable items to people living in food insecure areas.

Snyder said time is overdue for a mobile market.

“Basically anywhere there is a food desert with food insecurity we want to go,” said Snyder, a photographer and the owner of Confetti Dayton. “Dayton is pretty notorious for being high in food deserts.”

An April Food Research and Action Center report ranked the Dayton area ninth in the nation for food hardship, with a 22.6 percent food hardship rate. The state of Ohio ranked 19th in the nation with a 18.1 percent food hardship rate.

Nationwide, the rate in 2014 was 17.2 percent.

Nearly every urban area in the Dayton area has food deserts, including Xenia, Springfield, Troy, and Dayton.

Dayton Mobile Market is partnering with Wright State University's Master's of Public Health Program, Homefull, University of Dayton Dietetics, UpDayton and others. The program is patterned on the Nashville Mobile Market

DeNuzzo was involved in that project while a student at Vanderbilt University in that city.

Snyder said the Dayton Mobile Market needs about $40,000 in total to launch. It is exploring the possibility of retrofitting an old RTA bus for its needs or purchasing another vehicle.

Eventually, the program will be self-sustained and have paid employees. Donations can be made here.

“Our main goal is to provide access to people who don’t have food,” she said. “Our goal is to provide food at fair market price.”  

Gem City Food Trolley
Peace on Fifth owner London Coe has been researching a mobile market to serve food deserts for three years. She’s spent the last few months visiting cities with mobile markets from Florida to Connecticut to Tennessee.  

“The money right now is the only thing that is holding it back,” Coe said of the Gem City Trolley. “This is about food access. It is also about creating dignity for people whether they are on welfare or live in a food desert.”

Coe says she knows firsthand what it is like not to have access to fresh food. She does not own a car and has had to take a bus four hours to buy groceries.

“This is for me to solve a problem I personally have,” she said. “I understand why it is important for stops to be in certain locations.”

The Dayton Art Institute, the Dakota Center, and a location in the Wright-Dunbar neighborhood have already been identified as stops for the Gem City Food Trolley.

Only $490 of Gem City Food Trolley’s initial $10,000 goal has thus far been raised. Donations can be made here.

Coe is working with members of the New Abolitionist Movement at the University of Dayton. In 2011, the group worked to make human trafficking a felony offense in Ohio with stronger penalties for abduction and kidnapping if they involve involuntary servitude.

Gem City Food Trolley will have a relationship with programs like One Bistro, a pay-what-you-can program with a restaurant at 110 S. Second St. in Miamisburg and a food truck.

Robert D. Adamson, director and executive chef of One Bistro, said that program is expanding its outreach in Xenia and Middletown and hopes to either offer food truck services in the east side of Dayton or partner with an organization that will. It mentors about 60 projects nationally.