LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Kroger and the Dare to Care Food Bank have partnered to bring a rolling grocery store to parts of Louisville that don’t have adequate fresh food resources, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Dubbed Zero Hunger Mobile Market, the 44-foot-long trailer is a single-aisle grocery store on wheels. Its objective is to provide better access to fresh food for people who can't easily get to a store for a number of reasons, including physical disabilities and lack of transportation. The market travels among Louisville neighborhoods five days each week. Most stops take place at senior centers, schools, low-income apartment complexes and other locations where many people might gather, and each stop lasts two hours.
The market is based on a similar program in Milwaukee, and it could become a model for other cities that want to address food access issues in their own communities, such as towns in Oklahoma and North Dakota.
"It does not have to be a brick-and-mortar store for us to provide access to healthy food for people," said Erin Grant, a spokesperson for Kroger's Louisville division. She added, "That might not always be the solution. There really are other ways."
In 2017, more than 116,000 people living in Jefferson County, Kentucky, were considered food insecure, meaning they didn't have reliable access to healthy affordable food. That’s less than the 122,000 people who were food insecure in 2015, but it still makes up more than 15% of the county’s population who are considered food insecure, according to Feeding America, a nonprofit network of food banks nationwide.
Food insecurity is linked to higher rates of illness and lowered life expectancy in predominantly low-income neighborhoods, and it costs taxpayers around the nation millions of dollars in emergency health care. Kroger’s mobile market should help address those issues by bringing healthier food directly to the most affected communities, organizers said.
Funding for the Zero Hunger Mobile Market came from Kroger, Dare to Care and Louisville Forward, the city's economic development arm, which committed $60,000 to the project. Dare to Care spent more than $140,000 to purchase a truck and the trailer, while Kroger paid to outfit the market and hired three employees to run it.
Grant wouldn't say how much Kroger invested but said it was "significant" because the company wanted customers to feel like they were shopping in a regular store.
Within the roving market, two refrigerated units hold fresh meat, dairy products, eggs and other items. Shelves contain baking ingredients, pasta, cereal and pantry staples. An entire wall displays fruits and vegetables, from mustard greens to oranges. Grocery baskets are available at the entrance, and the checkout station is near the exit.
"We wanted them to have a similar experience as our customers do when they shop in a store," Grant said. "We wanted there to still be that warmth and newness and that brightness to it."