Fresh and Healthy Food for All

Making Food Accessible in Columbia County

Despite the rain, shoppers were drawn to the small, white trailer parked on Warren Street in Hudson.

They took cover under an awning, waiting patiently to step inside and browse the shelves and coolers packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, rice and household items—all made affordable by tiered pricing based on income.

Rolling Grocer 19 is a mobile market that aims to make wholesome, local food—which is abundant in some communities and scarce in others—available to more Columbia County residents. Since its grand opening in September, the shop on wheels has parked at different locations in the city throughout the week, bringing a fully stocked grocery store directly to consumers. The goal is to expand its route to all 19 of the county’s townships, as highlighted in its name.

The market is a result of the generosity of two anonymous donors who believe that “access to healthy food should be a right, not a privilege.” They partnered with Berkshire Taconic to learn more about food inequality in Columbia County, tapping the foundation’s capacity to bring together the “experts needed to understand issues and plan strategies.”

With their guidance, BTCF commissioned a countywide scan of healthy food access. That process revealed that approximately one in eight county residents—and one in six children—lack sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food, and nearly 15 percent cannot get to a supermarket due to store closures and a lack of transportation.

In response, the donors dedicated $750,000 to launch the five-year Fresh and Healthy Food for All initiative to fund projects designed to transform the county’s food system. In addition to the mobile market—which moved from concept to completion thanks to the hard work of Hawthorne Valley Association and many volunteers—their grants have expanded a local gleaning program that distributes produce to food pantries and funded refrigeration equipment to store it. They have also created cooking classes in area school districts that teach children and their families about healthy eating habits.

“We hope to have an ever-growing impact on food accessibility for those in need,” the donors said. As demonstrated by the line of shoppers wrapped around Rolling Grocer 19, that wish is becoming a reality.

RollingGrocer19

Selha “Cece” Graham is the coordinator of the new Rolling Grocer 19 mobile market. Photo by Darryl Gangloff