By Rachel Taylor, Editor in Chief
The Mobile Market is a distribution program run by the Capital Area Food Bank where fresh produce and other foods are provided to the community at no cost.
September 13 marked the first time that a Mobile Market has been held at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus. It was organized by the CAFB in collaboration with Montgomery College’s Senior Vice President of Student Affairs in an effort to support student success by combatting food insecurity.
The next Mobile Market in Germantown will take place on October 11.
In Germantown, the market was set up in the second floor lobby of the HT building, where various foods were spread out on tables ready for distribution. Foods available included fruits like mangoes, watermelons, pineapples, strawberries, apples, and oranges. There were also dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese, along with vegetables such as corn and tomatoes.
Approximately 20 people, including some students, volunteered to help with the Mobile Market. They worked to set up the market and distribute the food. The volunteers also operated a sign in process where demographic information was collected from people who came to the Mobile Market.
“Dairy goes quickly,” said Benita Rashaw, who was volunteering at the event, and the dairy items were mostly gone within an hour of the Mobile Market opening. However, plentiful amounts of mangoes, fresh corn, and bread rolls remained. Some of the foods that the Mobile Market only had smaller quantities of were mushrooms, strawberries, and pastries. In total, the amount of food at the Mobile Market was 6000 pounds.
Jennifer Mayo is a CAFB employee who was at the Mobile Market in Germantown. She has been with the CAFB for about a year and a half and previously worked with a food bank in Oklahoma. Her work is important to her because “anyone could be in a position without enough food,” so she wants to help people who are in that position. One of the goals of events like Mobile Markets is to “bring hunger out of the darkness,” said Mayo.
Mobile Markets are stocked with whatever the CAFB can provide, so the specific foods and amounts are subject to circumstantial variation. The Mobile Market focuses on providing fresh foods like produce and dairy rather than items with long shelf lives. This Mobile Market saw a large quantity of mangoes and corn in particular.
Some of the food is donated by local grocery stores; other food is bought by the CAFB with grant money. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also donates some food. Although the food may be considered not fresh enough by the grocery stores, it’s still perfectly edible. The amounts of food donated to the CAFB vary by the time of year. There are fewer donations in the summer, even though food insecurity is a problem year-round.
Mobile Markets across the region are conducted by the Capital Area Food Bank, which serves the District, Maryland, and Virginia. The CAFB is a branch of the nationwide organization Feeding America. The CAFB’s website notes that the organization is “working to solve hunger and its companion problems: chronic undernutrition, heart disease, and obesity.”
There are 88 total Mobile Markets that take place each month across the area, but they are just one of the many food distribution programs the CAFB runs. According to the CAFB’s website, seven percent of Montgomery County residents have trouble getting the food they need. In the Washington area at large, that number is about two times higher: 16%, or 700,000 people are at risk of hunger. The CAFB provides food to 12% of the area’s population.
The Mobile Market is designed to be very accessible; unlike other food distribution programs, no identification is required to take food provided at these events. This helps to remove some of the barriers people might be facing in getting enough food for their households. Other programs that receive federal funding have stricter guidelines, which can make it difficult for people like undocumented immigrants to receive food.
At Montgomery College’s other campuses, the Mobile Markets were held outside; Germantown’s Mobile Market took place indoors in the HT building. Setting up the Mobile Market outdoors would make it more visible and could allow more people to take advantage of the fresh produce offered.
Surayya Johnson, Germantown’s Director of Student Life, speculated that the Mobile Market was held indoors due to the construction on campus. At the time of planning the Mobile Market, the ongoing construction may have made it seem impractical to hold the event outside later.
Mobile Market events are scheduled to be held monthly on each campus.
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