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A Mobile Grocery Store Makes Stops in Dayton’s Food Deserts

Homefull's Mobile Grocery
Jason Reynolds
Customers started lining up in front of Homefull's new mobile grocery store a half hour before it opened at its first stop, Mount Enon Baptist Church.

There’s a new mobile grocery store in Dayton. It travels the city, making scheduled stops in food deserts and giving residents a chance to buy groceries close to home. It's the latest service from a local non-profit called Homefull.

The mobile grocery is a huge tractor trailer that transforms into a store. Hydraulics level the trailer. The sides pop out. The floors drop in. Then, the staff brings in the food.

Trudy Elder, Homefull’s Chief Strategic Officer, was on hand at the store's first stop.

"It’s a soft opening," she said. "So, we’re going to practice and learn a lot together, for sure. We are grateful. We have Rite Aid here today giving out free flu shots."

Flu shots aren’t always available at the mobile grocery, but healthy food is. And Elder says, Homefull’s mobile store can give some people pretty sweet discounts.

"We’re hoping to help vulnerable populations," Elder said. "So, people that might be on food stamps, we’re able to match their food stamps dollar to get free fruits and vegetables." Low income senior citizens may receive free produce, too.

Jason Bleijerveld, Homefull's Farm Manager
Courtesy of Homefull
Jason Bleijerveld sits in front of crates of tomatoes harvested from Homefull's urban farm on the corner of Main and Helena.

The idea is simple: Some Dayton neighborhoods don’t have a grocery store. So, Homefull is bringing the grocery to them.

John Patterson is the organization's Chief Development Officer. He says some Daytonians need to set aside three, four, or even five hours if they want to go to a brick and mortar grocery store and "that doesn’t even take into account having children with them or bringing frozen items or refrigerated items and things like that."

One of the first shoppers in line was Elizabeth. She lives nearby and stumbled upon the mobile grocery by accident, but she said she’ll keep coming back because it can save her time and money.

"I’m coming for produce," she said. "I’m looking for fresh green beans and corn. Maybe some blueberries. I can make a blueberry cobbler. That’d be good. This is the season for it."

Some of the produce at Homefull’s mobile store is grown by Homefull right here in Dayton, on their urban farm at the corner of Main and Helena Streets.

Jason Bleijerveld, Homefull’s Farm Manager, says that right now they have "a ton of tomatoes and pumpkins for the fall that are coming up for harvest."

And the farm doesn’t stop growing when the weather gets cold. Bleijerveld says they just planted "kale, bunching onions, lots of different lettuce varieties, carrots, turnips, radishes, beats" and other hearty veggies for the winter harvest.

Homefull has been a Dayton charity for 30 plus years, and their administrators say the organization is based on three pillars: Housing, Jobs, and Food. They figure if they can help people secure those big necessities, they’ll be doing their part.

Those three missions often overlap as someone who needs housing may also have a chance to work on the farm.

"I have a combination of a handful of clients who have gone through our housing program, volunteers who come up to the farm, and sometimes folks from the neighborhood who come down to talk and get roped into working on a project if we need a hand," Bleijerveld says.

More information is available Homefull.org