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Non-Profit Hopes to Address Food Deserts with Mobile Farmer's Market

According to the USDA, Central Florida has 16 food deserts- those are urban areas or rural towns that don't have access to fresh, healthy affordable foods. Usually food deserts lack stores or farmer's markets that sell fresh produce, and residents often don't have a way to get to stores outside their neighborhood. But an Orlando non-profit is working on an innovative solution.

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[Hebni Nutrition Consultants uses its commercial kitchen to teach classes on healthy eating]

Registered Dietitian Roniece Weaver recognized the problem 20-years ago. The people who live in the neighborhood surrounding Orlando’s Citrus Bowl have poor diets. So Weaver teamed up with two other registered dietitians to form Hebni Nutrition Consultants to educate people on how to prevent diet related diseases. But one problem remained- Hebni sits in a food desert. Weaver says that leaves two options- try to find  local stores that will expand their fresh produce offerings, or go with what she calls the ice cream truck model- a mobile farmer’s market. She says the mobile market is a better solution.

“We can expand our reach and be anywhere on any given day, and reach different populations with different culturally relevant foods, ” says Weaver.

Lynx is donating a bus, and Florida Hospital is providing grant money to refurbish it. But Hebni still needs to raise 150-thousand dollars to support the cost of running the mobile farmer’s market. The concept has worked in other cities, like Chicago, and Weaver says she’s confident it will work here, in part because the people living in Central Florida’s food deserts are culturally diverse.

“And when you look people from different cultures, especially in the southern region, in the Caribbean markets and the Hispanic markets, they’re very accustomed to having fruits and vegetables on their plate,” she says.

Hebni expects to receive the Lynx bus within the next month. And if it’s successful in raising the money needed for operating costs- the mobile farmer’s market should be on the road by January.


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