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By Ryan McGeeney U of A System Division of AgricultureAug. 19, 2016
(Newsroom: Shope is CQ)(Art available at: https://flic.kr/s/aHskFmiYjn)
LITTLE ROCK — A new mobile farmers’ market will be bringing fresh, locally-grown produce
to easy walking distance for several Little Rock neighborhoods.
Tuesday morning, organizers with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance held a brief
press conference outside Parris Towers, a high-rise retirement home near Little Rock’s
downtown area, to announce the new Fresh2You Mobile Farmers Market, a retrofitted
city bus that will deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to several “food deserts” throughout
A food desert is defined as an area in which fresh, healthy food choices are not easily
accessible. This often means that no grocery stores are within walking or even short
driving distance; it can also apply to areas that are home to specific, at-risk populations,
such as the elderly. Arkansas ranks number one in food insecurity among seniors, according
to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Currently, the mobile market is scheduled to visit the Parris Towers complex from
10 a.m. until noon each Tuesday, and the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library
& Learning Center from 9-11 a.m. Saturdays.
Nancy Conley, spokesman for the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, said the organization
plans to add an additional stop at Parris Towers from 1-2:30 on Tuesdays.
Conley said that all the produce being offered in the mobile market comes from Raising
Arkansas, an alliance of small-scale, mostly minority farmers in Central Arkansas.
Bobby Pettis, president of Raising Arkansas, said the coalition between his organization
and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance offered a unique opportunity for small farmers
to reach new markets.
Ron Rainey, extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of
Agriculture, said he had been working with both the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance
and Raising Arkansas in understanding and developing new market opportunities to connect
growers with consumers.
“I’ve been helping them connect with different resources to help them understand how
farmers markets operate, to help them connect with agricultural producers, and help
them connect with some of the technical expertise across the Division of Agriculture,”
Michelle Shope, director of resources and logistics for the Arkansas Hunger Relief
Alliance, said the bus, which was retired from the Little Rock Metro’s fleet a few
years ago, was donated by the city and retrofitted over the course of about six months.
The cost of the retrofitting was paid for through a grant from the Blue & You Foundation.
Shope said she hopes to eventually expand the mobile market program to all of Pulaski
County, and eventually to wherever similar services are needed in the state.
“We would like this program to be state-wide, focusing on food deserts,” Shope said.
She said that in working with Raising Arkansas, the mobile market concept expanded
small-scale farmers’ capacity for marketable production.
“Raising Arkansas works for small growers and historically disadvantaged growers to
develop year-round growing,” she said. “That not only gets food to people in need,
but also lift the grower by having year-round income.”
Greg Bledsoe, Arkansas State surgeon general, said the mobile market was one step
toward addressing the state’s nutritional needs.
“This is so exciting to me, because we’re actually providing a solution to a real
need, a real problem in our state,” Bledsoe said. “The folks that have gathered together
all the various members of the coalition, they were able to find a need — these urban
food deserts — then match that need with a resource — our local farmers, producing
these great crops, great food, then solve this problem in a unique way with this mobile
“That’s incredibly exciting,” he said. “And not just because of what it does in this
microcosm, but because it provides a model for how we go out and solve bigger problems
and issues all around the state.”
To learn more about bringing local produce to market, contact your local Cooperative
Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com