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Mobile grocery store helps fill need in food deserts

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Posted at 12:13 PM, Dec 01, 2022

B.J. Adams runs a mobile grocery store in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s a store that is literally an 18-wheeler.

“I love to serve people. And with this mobile unit, it’s creating an atmosphere where I serve,” Adams said.

Memphis has been called "America's Hunger Capital."

Roshun Austin, who runs The Works, a nonprofit that focuses on affordable housing, said many neighborhoods don't offer basic amenities like grocery stores.

“The pipes are crumbling. The infrastructure is crumbling. The sidewalks are broken," he said. "Just leave a city alone, and don’t make any investment in it, and in 50 years, that’s what these places look like today."

The story of inner-city Memphis is far too common. The “white flight” of the 1970s took money and diversity out of the city. Resources left as did so did many with the means to go elsewhere.

“And so today, in 2022, who are the majority of the people that live in these neighborhoods? They're the older women who did not have the discretionary income to leave. They're still there,” Austin said.

“So many people don’t have transportation. Buses don’t run like they used to in our neighborhood. You know, our village is broken," said Memphis resident Vera Harmon.

Census data shows that life expectancy in neighborhoods like these is more than a decade less than of those who live in suburbs just minutes away. The same is true for many rural areas.

“I think sometimes we’re so separate as a country now, we don’t see the similarities. Most of us are closer than we think in a lot of ways,” Austin said.

The mobile grocery store runs four days a week in various neighborhoods. It’s not enough, but it’s the kind of idea that reverberates well beyond the food it provides.