By Elizabeth Coss
The Mahoning Valley Mobile Market travels across Mahoning County to provide healthy foods to the community — including Youngstown State University’s.
The market is a 28-foot-long grocery store on wheels, spearheaded by the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods.
Jeffery Stanford, lead organizer for ACTION, said the Mobile Market was created to combat Youngstown’s food desert.
“[ACTION] [has] been fighting food deserts ever since they’ve been here. We have been trying to get a brick-and-mortar grocery store,” Stanford said. “We just want to make sure that those in Youngstown have access to fruits and vegetables, and all the amenities everyone else has.”
Fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions and lettuce are available in a farm-to-table style. The market also offers a variety of meats, breads, dairy products, baking materials, microwave meals, ice creams and condiments.
Rose Carter, the executive director of ACTION, said the Mobile Market provides produce from local farms.
“We also get our food from local vendors, local farmers [and] local produce people,” Carter said. “It’s very important because people need to learn how to eat healthy and the only way they’re going to … is to have fresh vegetables, fruits [and] meats.”
YSU students qualify for a $25 voucher to spend on the Mobile Market. Vouchers are available to other shoppers on a first-come, first-serve basis. The market also accepts other forms of payment including cash, credit, EBT or SNAP.
With the $25 voucher, some students’ groceries are essentially free. Students can shop multiple times a month on the market but can only get one voucher per household per month.
Kylee Chrastina, a YSU graduate, is the scheduling coordinator for ACTION and the marketing coordinator for the Mobile Market. She completed an internship with the organization, which was funded through the YSU Wean Foundation.
Chrastina said she understands the importance of affordable, healthy options for college students.
“I know the struggles of having to worry financially … It’s just lifting all these burdens that a lot of students face, especially with the rising cost of groceries,” Chrastina said. “There’s not a ton of healthy options that are affordable, especially for students who mostly don’t work or you have international students who might not have access to a lot of these things.”
The Mobile Market’s services will soon travel to Trumbull County as the organization has ordered a newer, larger truck to expand its reach and improve accessibility features.
The truck will arrive at the start of 2024, but until then Carter said the Mahoning Valley Mobile Market will travel to Trumbull County during the holiday season.
“We are going to make different stops in Trumbull County while we are waiting on that truck,” Carter said. “We’ve made arrangements with Trumbull Memorial Hospital, [Trumbull County Action Program] — some of the other spots — to just try to take the truck up there before Thanksgiving and before Christmas.”
The Mahoning Valley Mobile Market makes multiple stops each month — some private to residential areas, while others are public.
The next public stops will be 12 to 2 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Sebring Library and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Austintown Farmers Market.