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OUR STORY

How our community's vision became a reality

The story of the Amherst Mobile Market begins in the basement of First Congregational Church in downtown Amherst.

In 2018, Family Outreach of Amherst was hosting bilingual monthly luncheons for their clients at the First Congregational Church. Healthy Hampshire had recently completed a Food Access Assessment and wanted more input from Amherst residents on the particular challenges the assessment had identified in Amherst. With the help of Family Outreach and Latino Outreach Specialist, Rossana Salazar, Healthy Hampshire began facilitating bilingual conversations at the monthly luncheons on the topic of food security: What is it, how do we know when we have it, and what is needed to increase it?

After getting lots of wonderful input from residents, Healthy Hampshire decided to bring professional stakeholders to the table who could help to close the food access gaps that were being identified. Together, the residents, stakeholders, and Healthy Hampshire undertook a Food Justice Planning Process that identified mobile markets as a priority strategy for closing some of the town's food access gaps. 

In 2019, Healthy Hampshire received a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield that provided the funding to launch a pilot season of the Amherst Mobile Market. Participants in the Amherst Food Justice Planning Process, along with some new stakeholders, formed an Amherst Mobile Market Planning Committee to guide the development and implementation of the program. The Committee identified three categories of goals for the project:

  • Results: 

    • Design and implement a mobile market model that:

      • Is affordable, accessible, and working toward sustainability

      • Provides economic opportunity for community members

      • Sources from local farms

      • Includes culinary education

  • ​Process

    • Provide a variety of ways for people to give their input

    • Incorporate the experiences, perspectives, and opinions that people share into the design of the project

  • Relationships

    • Create opportunities for people to feel more connected to one another

    • Value the ideas of the people who would be the recipients of the program equally with the organizational partners 

The committee used these goals to put together a Request for Proposals to find a market operator. Of the farmers that responded, Many Hands Farm Corps was nearly unanimously favored by committee members for their evident commitment to upholding the Committee's goals. 

The Amherst Mobile Market launched in the summer of 2020 with 12 employees hired from among the residents who participated in the planning process. Throughout the 12-week pilot season, the market sold over 5,000 produce items to over 400 residents who were 33% more likely to be people of color than the population of Amherst overall. 71% of customers had annual household incomes of less than $50,000 and 33% had annual household incomes of less than $15,000. Customers were able to purchase 6-item farm shares for $5 a week, and were able to pay with SNAP, HIP, P-EBT, WIC, or Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons. Over the course of the season, survey respondents' average score (on a 1 - 10 scale) of how easy it was to get fresh, healthy food increased by 33%.

The Amherst Mobile Market Planning Committee continues to meet to guide the annual implementation of the Amherst Mobile Market. Organizing together as a community across differences in race, class, language, and more is not always easy, but committee members and market employees are committed to maintaining the Amherst Mobile Market as a community-driven project.

Please consider donating to help us continue to make our vision and goals a reality.