Maryland Food Bank adds Mobile Market Program to toolbox
BALTIMORE — The Maryland Food Bank is offering the Mobile Market Program, as its latest addition to its arsenal of hunger-fighting solutions.
According to the food bank, Mobile Market vehicles act as nimble “grocery stores on wheels,” providing nutritious food and fresh produce to food-insecure communities statewide.
Its two 26-foot vehicles travel to targeted locations in regions the food bank serves, offering a no-cost food shopping experience where residents have limited access to grocery stores and affordable, nutritious food.
The food bank’s first Mobile Market was unveiled in February 2020 and it was designed to allow neighbors to walk through the vehicle and select food items from easy-to-reach shelves. During the pandemic, however, the vehicle was used to transport food bank Back Up Boxes, 15-pound or 30-pound boxes of shelf-stable groceries.
But this spring, the vehicle’s original intent of allowing individuals to walk through the aisle of the refrigerated truck and “shop” for a variety of food will again become standard, the food bank said.
“With continued inflation and costs rising for just about everything, we know that more than 1 in 3 Maryland adults are finding it difficult to pay their bills,” said Jennifer Small, vice president of partner logistics and programs. “Our Mobile Markets are offering relief to Marylanders who might not otherwise be able to access healthy food as they try to make their limited budgets stretch as far as possible.”
According to a recent evaluation of the Mobile Market Program conducted by the food bank’s strategy group, the initiative’s effectiveness and its impact on neighbors in unserved and underserved areas has been significant.
From Nov. 1, 2021 to Oct. 31, 2022, the two Mobile Markets served 11,266 households across Maryland, or an estimated 29,742 Marylanders in need, and generated a return on investment of $4.20 for every $1 invested.
“Earlier this month, we were thrilled to offer neighbors in Deal Island our first opportunity, since the onset of COVID, to select the foods they wanted for their families,” Small said. “From fresh produce to dry goods to frozen proteins, the Mobile Markets offer a maximum level of choice, which is critical in creating a positive, supportive experience for people in need of food assistance.”
In addition to food, the Mobile Market Program partners with a wide range of community allies to share critical resources with neighbors in need, referring them to specialized support services and offering wraparound services that help open paths to economic security.
SNAP enrollment assistance and health screenings, for instance, are available through community partners and MFB programming at no cost to neighbors who visit a Mobile Market.
“We’re targeting communities that include hard-working households challenged by transportation and geography,” Small said. “These families are living along the water and on farmland that are miles from any grocery store, let alone a food pantry. In some cases, these communities don’t even have access to running water or electricity.”
Since adding a second Mobile Market in March 2022, the vehicles travel across Maryland’s Eastern Shore as well as to counties in the northern, southern, and western region of the state, targeting communities that lack brick-and-mortar food assistance facilities and don’t have easy-to-access social services for residents.
“Our Mobile Markets have a proven track record of success. They’re working really well, which is why we’ll continue to invest in and expand the program this year with a third vehicle that will be equipped with a freezer and cooler to transport and distribute even more protein, meat, and dairy products,” Small said. “We’re excited to have all of our vehicles on the road more frequently, crisscrossing the state to deliver hope while feeding our neighbors in need.”