Dinner on the Road

“How can the chronic lack of food in some areas become a catalyst for revitalization, hope, and celebration as new methods of food production and acquisition are embraced?” asks the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition. The CCCFPC mapped Northeast Ohio’s food deserts, and it’s clear some areas need help. While a mass of angry red dots represents fast-food spots, only the occasional grocery store sprouts from the city’s most economically distressed neighborhoods.

One answer is the Bridgeport Mobile Market, operated by Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc., a nonprofit neighborhood association with a mission to “empower citizens and revitalize blighted and underserved communities.” Their 16-foot grocerystore-in-a-truck launched last June, bringing fresh food to neighborhoods such as Union-Miles, Hough, Kinsman, Collinwood, and Central.

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It’s run by a bright and energetic woman named Joy Dismukes, who left a 12-year career in banking to stock the truck, drive from site to site, sell fruits and vegetables, and help educate shoppers about healthy eating.

It’s all about education, Dismukes affirms. “Instead of spending a dollar on one small French fry,” she says, bouncing toward the back of the refrigerated truck, “let’s get four potatoes, cut them up, and you’ve got enough French fries to feed everybody in the house.”

The Mobile Market runs Monday through Friday, accepts cash, credit, and SNAP cards, and aims to keep prices comparable to, or less than, the grocery store. The shelves on either side of the truck are lined with fruits and vegetables from local growers, bread from Orlando Bakery, and recipe cards organized by ingredient. It’s almost always busy, and even kids flock to it. “We look like an ice cream truck,” laughs Dismukes, as a handful of kids to approach the truck.

“How much do apples cost? How much are grapes?” they yell from the parking lot.

“Apples are 40 cents. Grapes are $2.75.”

“Y’all got blueberries?” No, replies Dismukes, they aren’t in season yet.

One girl, about 13 years old, steps closer. “Y’all got cucumbers?” she asks, doubt written on her face.

“I got ’em; they’re $1.”

“They is? I’ll be right back!”

Dismukes nods her head enthusiastically. “Fruits and vegetables are fun. They’re not the enemy.”

– Laura Adiletta

To learn more about the Mobile Market call Joy Dismukes at 216.400.2010 or follow her on Twitter @BridgeportMobil.