Mobile farmers markets supply fresh goods to communities with limited access

HERRIN, Ill. The nonprofit group Food Works launched mobile farmers markets on June 6 to supply fresh, local food to communities with limited access throughout southern Illinois. Goods include vegetables, fruits, breads and baked goods, as well as grass-fed meats.

Every Thursday from June through October, mobile markets will run from 3 to 5 pm at Carterville Fresh Farm and from 5:30 to 7 pm at the Marion Carnegie Library. The company added two mobile markets that run every Friday for the same month, including 10 a.m. to noon at Herrin House of Hope and 1 to 3 p.m. at Boyton Street Community Center in Marion.

According to Food Works, the 16-foot box trucks that house the mobile markets are equipped with a refrigeration system to transport and store food at the right temperatures, as well as a sink for washing hands, storage for dry goods and lighting. The sides of the trucks open to create a shopping display for customers.

Food Works Mobile Markets partners with the Food Hub of the Little Egypt Farmers Alliance (LEAF), a cooperative of more than 25 farms and producers in southern Illinois and other regional producers to ensure that goods are only locally sourced .

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Tamara Pirmann stands in front of the Herrin House of Hope mobile farmers market in Herrin, Illinois, on June 14, 2024.

Tamara Pirmann, one of the founding members of LEAF Food Hub, said the cooperative is always pursuing new platforms to distribute local goods to the community. For Pirmann, that meant pairing with Food Works, which funds and organizes mobile markets. She explained that LEAF Food Hub supplies most of the produce.

LEAF Food Hub’s mission is to bring sustainably grown food to the community and help support small farms, Pirmann said. The beauty of this is that they are focusing on getting healthy, local food into the hands of those who don’t have access to it.

Pirmann described mobile markets as a great source of income for farms that connects them more deeply with the community. She said they create a dynamic between farmers and consumers.

In addition, Pirmann said mobile markets promote health benefits, providing an alternative to the waste of other options such as fast food.

This provides a healthier choice for everyone, Pirmann said. This is just an extension of all the farmers markets in the area.

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Ellen Elsing stands behind the checkout counter of the Herrin House of Hope mobile farmers market in Herrin, Illinois, on June 14, 2024.

Ellen Esling, a Food Works farmers market manager, said the mobile markets have been well received. She said people are especially excited about the EBT bond matching program and the benefits that make farmers market affordable goods for different income levels.

Elsing said she agrees with Pirmann that mobile farmers markets provide opportunities for a healthier lifestyle with access to fresh, locally sourced goods.

“I find that a lot of small farmers are really intentional about how they grow their food,” Elsing said.

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Assisted by Elsing, Andrew Connors shops at the Herrin House of Hope mobile farmers market in Herrin, Illinois, on June 14, 2024.

Andrew Connors, a customer at the Herrin location, said he was drawn to the mobile farmers market for produce over grocery chains like Walmart or Kroger.

I think there’s something to be said for getting your produce from where you live, Connors said. There’s really good produce around here that people put out to get things local and fresh.

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