The Association of Fundraising Professionals Mahoning-Shenango Chapter will honor the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods (Action) with Special Recognition for Valley Impact during its annual National Philanthropy Day luncheon Nov. 4.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods, better known as Action, this spring launched the Mahoning Valley Mobile Market.
The 25-year-old faith-based organization is made up of 32 religious institutions and nonprofit entities in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. It focuses on addressing community injustices, says Rose Carter, executive director of Action.
The injustice that the Mobile Market – which Carter describes as “a grocery store on wheels” – addressed was the lack of a full-service grocery store within Youngstown city limits. This presented challenges for people who wanted fresh foods but didn’t have transportation. People who didn’t own cars were forced to take lengthy bus trips to grocery stores and then were limited to purchasing only what they could carry.
“Action is committed to the value of human life in the Valley and to tackling issues [such as food access, skyrocketing rents and racial inequality] that prevent people from being at their best and having the best opportunities,” says Vicki Vicars, lead organizer. “Our focus is transforming societies.”
In the six years since the community was designated as a “food desert,” Action has held pop-up markets at various locations in partnership with Flying High Inc., which it also is partnering with on the mobile market, Carter says.
Given the lack of progress on securing a brick-and-mortar grocery store in the city, the decision was made to “put a grocery store on wheels and go to the community,” she says.
Action raised about $500,000 to support the project, enough to cover the purchase of the vehicle and fund its operation for the first year, Vicars says.
The 28-foot-long vehicle is equipped with four commercial freezers and four commercial refrigerators, she says. Funders included the city of Youngstown, Mahoning County, the Youngstown Foundation and Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley.
The market provides access not just to fruits and vegetables but also to bread, dairy products, meat, eggs, poultry and seafood, Carter says.
“We get a lot of fresh produce from Grow Urban Farm,” Vicars says.
Other suppliers include Angiuli’s Farm Market, and Horst Packing Inc.
In addition, Action partners with Mercy Health to present demonstrations on how to prepare healthful foods, Carter says.
In the mobile market’s first five months of operation, sales totaled more than $40,000, she says. The truck makes about 25 stops per month at locations throughout Mahoning County.
Action already is looking at identifying resources to acquire, stock and operate a potential second truck and is in discussions with officials in the city of Warren to provide service there.
“We can easily use two trucks,” Carter says. “We need volunteers. We need people to work.”
Pictured at top: Rose Carter is the executive director of Action; Vicki Vicars is the organization’s lead organizer.