Mobile Market to Roll Out Next Month

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Come next month, the long-awaited Mahoning Valley Mobile Market will be rolling through the city’s neighborhoods, driving an innovative approach to provide healthy foods and nutrition to the area’s most vulnerable populations.

“We’ll have it all stocked up and ready to go,” said Jeff Magada, executive director of Flying High Inc. a nonprofit that partnered with the community group Action to help bring the project to fruition. The Mobile Market’s first stops will begin May 10, he said.

Rose Carter, director of Action, said dozens of community, government and corporate supporters helped make this latest endeavor possible.

“It’s an exhilarating time,” she said. “The community’s passion for the Mahoning Valley Mobile Market and the investments in its future continues to amaze me and inspire me.”

On Tuesday, community and business leaders, elected officials, and representatives of nonprofit agencies gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the first mobile grocery truck at the Byzantine Center at the Grove.

“What a humbling moment it is to stand here in front of this huge crowd of supporters to mark this incredibly special occasion,” Carter said.

The coalition was able to raise nearly $500,000 from a long list of resources, including a $38 contribution “that a young man gave me at the Mocha House and thousands of dollars that we got from funders.” Carter remarked.

Among the major partners in the effort are the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, the Youngstown Foundation, the Western Reserve Health Foundation, the William Swanston Charitable Fund, the city of Youngstown and Mahoning County.

Premier Bank also took the opportunity to present Action with a check for $5,000 toward the Mobile Market initiative.

The project gained traction last year, as Flying High, Action, and other partners launched a campaign to raise funds to purchase the vehicle and retrofit it to accommodate produce, dairy and meats.

“We knew we had to call upon the community to put this solution together,” said Vicki Vicars, organizer and coordinator at Action. “We have just been overwhelmed with the amount of support and people who believed in our mission.”

Magada says some of the fruits and vegetables will be grown at Flying High’s greenhouse at the Campus of Care in Austintown. Kitchen, prep and packaging work will also performed there at organization’s access building. Flying High personnel will stock the truck – about the size of a small bus – with fresh fruits and vegetables on one side of the aisle and frozen meats and dairy products on the other side.

“We’re excited,” he said.

Consumers are able to pay with debit or credit cards, vouchers, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Snap, cards, Magada says. The service does not accept cash.

Action’s Vicars says Mahoning County authorized $150,000 toward the purchase of vouchers for eligible consumers who are both residents of the county and live under 200% of the federal poverty level.

The funding would be enough to cover 500 vouchers. Those eligible could receive a $25 voucher every month for one year. “We’re still working on funding for another 500,” she said.

The Mahoning Valley Mobile Market’s first run will be on the city’s east side, Vicars said. The group selected neighborhoods and areas with limited access to fresh and healthy foods to start the initiative.

“We’re looking at YMHA [Youngstown Municipal Housing Authority] community housing areas, apartments that serve seniors through MyCap, and we’re looking at areas that we know were successful when we did our pop-up markets.”

Action’s Carter said the program fits perfectly with the group’s mission of addressing poverty, eliminating racism and advocating for social justice.

“This new mobile market is a bold reflection of that commitment,” she said.

Pictured above are Rose Carter and Jeff Magada

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.