An Oasis To A Food Desert: A Mobile Farmers Market

Nell. The grocery store on wheels

Semi-panicked, I stood in an empty parking lot searching for the office building but could not find it; I was at the wrong address. By the time I found the building, my soon to be boss and co-workers were already on the bus preparing for the day’s markets. I turned the corner and there she was–the big green school bus-converted-to-grocery store they call Nell.

She was more majestic than in the pictures. It was in this moment I knew that my internship with Lowcountry Street Grocery (LSG) was going to be one to remember.

 

Who Is Lowcountry Street Grocery And What Is Their Mission?

LSG is a mobile farmers market or grocery store on wheels located in the greater Charleston area whose goal is to reach those who have less access to local healthy and affordable groceries. Many of LSG’s markets are located in food deserts. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food deserts are areas that have limited to no access to healthy fresh produce and groceries.

Lindsey Barrow (left) talking to a Post and Courier reporter

Lindsey Barrow Jr. started this social business approximately three years ago in response to the growing epidemic of food insecurity in Charleston, SC. LSG strives to support the local community by sourcing the majority of its produce from local farmers and food purveyors.

In an effort to make groceries and produce items affordable, LSG offers SNAP/EBT, Healthy Bucks SC, cash and credit as payment options.

Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps, are offered on a card called an EBT (electronic benefits transfer). The EBT card essentially acts as debit card.

Something exciting that the South Carolina Department of Social Services created is the Healthy Bucks program, which LSG offers to qualifying customers. A customer who has SNAP/EBT can spend $5 on anything and with the Healthy Bucks program receive $10 Healthy Bucks tokens to spend on produce.

What LSG has Taught Me

LSG grew significantly during my time there. Consequently, my responsibilities varied from week to week, although

Inside the bus at one of our market stops

my main duties included:

  • Tracking inventory
  • Helping prepare Nell for and run market stops
  • Social media marketing
  • Helping with creative design
  • Facilitating SNAP/EBT and Healthy Bucks transactions
  • Helping run their community supported agriculture (CSG)

My Bard CEP Environmental Policy classes helped me understand the importance of community engagement and

building relationships during my internship. During our market stops, we engage with community members, chefs, and business owners. I observed the value of these symbiotic relationships every Thursday when we drove our bus to a local neighborhood restaurant where the owner welcomed us. Not only did our bus provide fresh food to the local neighborhood, but it also drew people to his restaurant. The increased awareness of sourcing locally and supporting local establishments is a huge factor in any grass roots movement. 

Lindsey as well as those who work for him believe strongly that this business makes a difference in the community, and I have never seen a staff work so heartily for a common goal.

Me working at our first CSG pick up

About benjaminvolk

Ben is pursuing a masters in Environmental Policy and an MBA in Sustainability from Bard College.