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Mobile farmers market to serve 'food desert' communities in west S.L.

SALT LAKE CITY — Families living on the west side of Salt Lake City can now buy fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the week at a new mobile farmers market stand.

The Urban Greens Market is selling fresh produce Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays at five locations in the Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods this summer. The mobile market runs from June 17 to Nov. 14 and gives residents with limited access to transportation a chance to buy locally grown produce.

Salt Lake City is partnering with Real Food Rising and The Green Urban Lunch Box to create the mobile market.

"My goal is to make sure all neighborhoods have equal access to resources, including healthy, fresh affordable food," said Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski at the market's opening event Monday.

The mobile market accepts food stamps and participates in the Double Up Food Bucks program sponsored by Utahns Against Hunger.

"What we didn’t want to happen is for (the market) to be in one dedicated spot," Biskupski said. "It really needed to be mobile if we were going to truly serve the whole Glendale and Popular Grove area."

Residents living in these two communities are in the largest "food desert" area in the city, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Salt Lake City Community Food Assessment.

A "food desert" is a census tract where at least 20 percent of residents have poverty-level income and 33 percent of the population live more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store, according to the USDA Food Desert Locator.

"People tend to eat what's readily available," said Shawn Peterson, executive director of The Green Urban Lunch Box. "The Urban Green Market is really important to our mission as we strive to provide healthy quality food for all members of Salt Lake’s community."

Peterson said communities compensate for lack of supermarkets by building fast-food outlets and convenience stores stocked with packaged and processed food.

He said getting fresh produce is also difficult because residents in these areas have some of the lowest vehicle rates in the country and must rely on public transportation to reach grocery stores.

"You can imagine if you don’t own a car and you want to go get groceries, lugging them on the bus," he said. "We believe (the Urban Greens Market) will change buying and eating habits, increasing the demand for locally grown produce."

All the produce from the Urban Green Market is grown along the Wasatch Front, Peterson said. Fresh fruit comes from over 1,400 local homeowner trees registered in the Salt Lake City FruitShare program. Vegetables come from 24 locations around Salt Lake City and the Farmers Training program, which trains the next generation of Utah farmers.

Funding for the Urban Greens Market comes from grants from the USDA Farmers Market promotion program.

"We’ve located the markets in places where these people would be shopping or near community centers," said Haley Eckels, community programs manager for Utah Community Action. "It’s a great way to make sure we’re positioning these markets in places where they would actually be convenient for the community."

Teams from the The Green Urban Lunch Box and Real Food Rising will staff the Urban Greens Market.

"Not only will it help make local produce affordable and accessible in these neighborhoods, it will provide an additional outlet for our farmers," Peterson said. "We believe that this market will help attain that."

The five locations of the Urban Greens Market are: Sorenson Unity Center, 855 W. California Ave.; Glendale-Mountain View Community Learning Center, 1388 S. Navajo St.; Hartland Partnership Center, 1578 W. 1700 South; Neighborhood House, 1050 W. 500 South; and Sherwood Park, 1400 W. 400 South.

For time and location information about the mobile program go to slcgreen.com/urbangreens or text "MARKET" to 51555.

Email: astilson@deseretnews.com