Location: Rock Hill, SC
Alisha Pruett did not always value fresh vegetables. She changed her diet and her perception of food as a fuel source when she became a vegetarian in college. That led to, as she puts it, “amping up my knowledge of food.” She invested in local food systems and learned how to cook.
Fast forward a few years and Alisha is working as a social worker in Charlotte, North Carolina serving homeless veterans. She saw firsthand that their access to food, especially good, nutritious food, was a major barrier in getting their lives back on track. “When I saw people I was trying to help eat Velveeta cheese,” Alisha says, “it was tough. They can’t get help if they are feeling poorly.”
The first recourse for someone who is deprived of the food he needs to survive is to refer him to food pantries, but Alisha increasingly felt that was a flawed solution. “That put them in a tough position,” she says, plus it rarely provided the fresh and nutritious vegetables she had come to value in her own diet. So Alisha started trying to procure the food herself. She reached out to local farmers at area farmers markets and asked them if she could take away whatever they were unable to sell. They readily agreed and she was able to get enough food for a 40-person caseload every week.
Alisha’s efforts were so successful that, she says, “it became its own thing.” She started the Bulb Mobile Market to be able to extend her efforts of procuring and now growing fresh vegetables for a larger group of recipients than her social worker caseload. She is now able to pick up 1600 pounds of food each day, relying on local farmers but also gleaners and retailers like Trader Joes and Earth Fare. She
The Bulb Mobile Market is a farmer’s stand-type of market that Alisha offers in thirty neighborhoods each month, targeting designated food dessert areas and low income populations. She partners with people who already know the population, like Urban Ministries, to make sure she is targeting the right demographics
She did not want a lack of resources to equate to a lack of good nutrition, so she structures her pop up and mobile markets as a no fee, no barrier model. “We have a take what you need and give what you can approach,” Alisha says.
Alisha also partners with chef Julia from Nourish and The Patio Farmer and Pop up Produce to offer cooking demos and container gardening workshops, teaching the residents how to grow their own things. And Alisha takes part herself in the growing process. Thanks to a recent grant that The Bulb Mobile Market recently received from United Neighborhoods, Alisha now partners with Streetfair Farms. They currently grow enough to feed 200 people per week and are striving to grow solely for The Bulb. She also employs local residents, offering stipends to anyone who wants to help at the market.
Alisha says it is gratifying to see people improve their health from the market. She has seen people lose weight and recover from some of the ailments that are often associated with poor nutrition. One woman who initially had a hard time walking to the mobile market and was on a breathing machine is now able to walk much greater distances and is off of her machine. She is now a vocal advocate for the market and has begun working there.
For Alisha, an unexpected highlight of the Bulb Mobile Market are the stories that are told around it. “There was recently a whole conversational thread about turnips,” Alisha says, “with folks talking about how their mamas used to cook them.”
She sees her market as more than just access to fresh food. “Relationships develop not just with us,” she says, “but with each other.”
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