While Tuesday morning was damp and downright chilly, for UNT Dallas biology professor Dr. Kelly Varga, the sun might as well have been out and shining down her and the UNT Dallas students invested in the Mobile Market initiative. Tuesday marked the debut of the mobile market bus in the community, with the first of three so-called "soft launches" happening at the Moorland Family YMCA.
The Mobile Market program is a joint venture made possible by a grant from Toyota. DART donated a bus that has been retrofitted by automotive students at Cedar Valley Community College. The bus will serve as the mobile market when it officially gets rolling next spring, transporting locally grown fruits and vegetables into southern Dallas communities that lack easy access to whole foods. Within the first 90 minutes of setting up shop in the Moorland Family YMCA parking lot, some 30 people came by to take a look and pick up a free sack of produce that included yams, cabbage, bananas and oranges, plus brochures with nutritional items and recipe suggestions for each item.
When the mobile market is fully operational, the sacks of produce, called Bargain Bags, will cost $5. The market will also have a fresh name and logo. One of the initiatives of the three "soft launch" events is to query the public for ideas.
"It feels fantastic," Varga said, warmly bundled in a winter coat and ski cap. "This is in no short change to the support from Toyota, the donation of the vehicle from DART and, of course, the tremendous work from the students at Cedar Valley in the automotive school. We've got the bus retrofitted, we're out here, we've had about 30 people come through on a cold, chilly day, but we're excited to let people know that we've good good, healthy produce coming their way soon."
UNT Dallas students in the School of Business, the STEM program and in communications are involved in the community project, and several braved the cold to help launch the market. Communications junior Maira Lopez is busy stockpiling video footage and other content to release on social media accounts that will spring to life when the mobile market gains its official name.
The School of Business students are working and business plan and sustainability; and STEM students are working on hard data mapping of the food desert landscape to determine which communities will be best served by the mobile market.
The remaining soft launches are on Sunday, Nov. 10 from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. at Friendship West Baptist Church; and Tuesday, Nov. 12 from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. at Youth World Dallas.