By Halima Flynn, Development Associate
In 2012 a team of Common Ground high school seniors focused their senior project on food insecurity for the elderly. After surveying neighborhoods around Common Ground, they learned that the issue wasn’t the cost, it was the access. For many, getting fresh produce meant an hour length bus trip, sometimes with one transfer, each way, and then walking a distance with the grocery bags to their home from the bus stop. The student’s solution was to bring Common Ground produce to them. And that’s how the Common Ground Mobile Market was born!!
For the first five years, the project was led and coordinated by Cityseed, and in 2018, we took on the project management. The Mobile Market is staffed by a combination of youth from Common Ground’s Green Jobs Corps and Common Ground staff. The Mobile Market tackles three things at once:
- Providing healthy and local fruits and vegetables to New Haven residents living in subsidized senior housing in neighborhoods that have limited access to farmers markets and grocery stores.
- Building community at each of our stops by being there regularly.
- Developing intergenerational relationships between youth working at the Mobile Market Stand and older adult customers.
This year the market is stopping at:
- Cornell Scott Hill Health Center branches at Wilmot Crossing, and Columbus Avenue
- The Newhallville Learning Corridor at Shelton and Ivy
- Rotating Senior Center/housing Stops
On the first day at the intersection at Shelton and Ivy, cucumbers, blueberries, squash and lettuce sold out within the first hour. Despite summer rain showers starting up, intrepid shoppers still came, and even more stopped by to find out the schedule as they bustled to their next destination. One woman who wasn’t familiar with the Mobile Market stopped to chat and was distracted by the beautiful vegetables. When we told her that they were grown at Common Ground nearby, she said, “Wow! You can tell the difference, it just looks so fresh! It looks nothing like what’s in the grocery store!”
Another shopper, Alonzo, came to find strawberries and peaches, but he left with some scallions. “I like fresh grown, it’s just more down-to-earth,” he said with a wink and a grin.
This year the Mobile Market is managed by Chelsea Brooks who is in her first year studying Public Health at Southern. When asked what attracted her to the position she stated “it totally fits in with my major, by addressing food insecurity, and providing resources and access for low-income families. You just don’t see enough of this. And seeing people get excited about it is just so rewarding!”
Common Ground’s farm produces collard greens, cabbage, carrots, scallions, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, eggs and more for the mobile market. Fruit and some produce that we don’t grow on the CG farm, we order from other local farms.
We make our produce accessible to as many people as possible by accepting Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and WIC checks, and we give a 50 percent discount to customers who qualify for SNAP.
We also want to thank our supporters – we don’t cover costs with sales alone – the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut is providing a mini-grant to Common Ground to increase seniors’ access to fresh produce. The Mobile Market would not exist without the support of Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, CPEN at the Learning Corridor in Newhallville, CTNext, House of Naan, City Seed, Elm City Communities, the Commission on Aging of the City of New Haven and Massaro Farm.
Please come visit! You can access the full schedule updated regularly, at this link: Mobile Market Schedule. When you arrive look for a red wooden shed that looks like a little chicken coop on wheels! Its sides will be opened up to reveal shelves displaying fresh locally grown produce. And you’ll also see some friendly CG faces! Happy shopping!