Vast areas of Muncie are considered a food desert, which means that residents can’t easily access basic healthy foods within 1 mile of their home. With many Marsh stores closing, food access issues will only increase.
One objective of the Muncie Food Hub is to help residents obtain healthy, local food. But barriers to food access are mired in complexity – one could have difficulty obtaining reliable transportation, low income, or general lack of knowledge about retail outlets.
Enter the local food Mobile Market. Andrew Imboden, Ball State University graduate student and Hoosier Roots food hub staff member, is researching how the Mobile Market can best serve residents of Delaware county.
He says targeting customers in food deserts will not only help those individuals be more food secure, but it will also help create financial sustainability for the mobile market. Service-oriented businesses that build strong relationships with under-served areas benefit from increased consumer loyalty and support.
Though food insecure areas can be easily seen on a map, Andrew explains that finding a place to locate the Mobile Market will be more complicated. “It’s a nebulous web of considerations, so we can’t tell you black and white what’s important and what’s not. I’m not going to make any assumptions about what’s important to people.”
Food buying choices are affected by many factors from obvious constraints like price and time to less intuitive ones like cultural perception and mood.
To clear up these ambiguities, Andrew is using GIS maps and conversations with residents to find out how they really feel about food access in their neighborhoods.
“Even with databases and databases about census data and property values, all you have is a skeleton, it doesn’t tell the story of their experience with the food system.”
The food hub hopes that soon the Mobile Market can make more healthy options part of that story for Delaware County.