Hamline News

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Capstone to reality: Twin Cities Mobile Market

When Leah Porter Driscoll MNM ’12 needed a capstone project to graduate, she chose the topic of food deserts and learned just about everything she could about the vast inequities in the Twin Cities.

“It’s sadly ironic that our ZIP code not only determines our life expectancy, but that those in the poorest neighborhoods also have the most limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, which is something that could improve their health outcomes,” she says.

Rather than putting her project on a shelf when she graduated, Driscoll kept going. Eventually, she partnered with The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, a Saint Paul-based nonprofit health and human services organization, to create the area’s first mobile market.

The retrofitted bus makes weekly stops at 18 locations in some of Saint Paul’s poorest neighborhoods.

In a recent survey, 70 percent of shoppers reported they had increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables as a result of the mobile market, which offers competitively priced and minimally processed produce, meats, dairy, and other staples.

Driscoll has already heard a number of anecdotes about improved health consequences. “One shopper was diabetic and had struggled with rising blood sugar counts,” she recalls. “At her last visit, her doctor asked her what in the world she’d been doing since her counts were finally in the normal range. She told her doctor it was because she was able to shop once a week with us.”

Driscoll received The Hamline School of Business 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award. And, only a year after launching, Mobile Market has received enough funding to allow the purchase of a second bus, which will hit Minneapolis streets this summer. Driscoll hopes to use space on the bus, as well as outside in summer months, for cooking demonstrations and sampling.

—Julie Kendrick