Launching a mobile market to provide food to the most food-insecure residents and to gather data on food insecurity, food choices, shopping behaviors, and how participants access services.
Nutritious food has been a primary and increasingly urgent need during various crises that have afflicted the Houston region, from Hurricane Harvey to the COVID-19 pandemic. Urban Harvest, a nonprofit that seeks to cultivate thriving communities through gardening and access to healthy food, is launching a mobile market to ensure access to healthy food throughout Houston’s most underserved areas.
The mobile market will offer multiple services. It will be a movable site for Urban Harvest’s Double Up Houston program, which allows people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to purchase double the amount of local produce with their benefits. It will also function as a service-navigation center to enroll people in federal benefit programs and connect them to community-based food resources through nutrition and gardening classes.
To deploy the mobile market in areas where needs are greatest, Urban Harvest will partner with the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University to get timely data on areas with the greatest number of residents struggling with food insecurity. The research team will analyze data collected through Double Up Houston to understand participants’ characteristics and how they access services. Then, the research team will conduct a focus group with people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (half of whom are not current clients of Urban Harvest) to gather information about their food choices and shopping behaviors to get insights on people Urban Harvest typically does not reach. Lastly, the research team will combine this data with other data on social service needs, economic stress, food access, and health disparities.
The data from this project will help Urban Harvest identify barriers to food security. Beyond influencing where to deploy the mobile market, Urban Harvest will use the data to foster conversation with peer organizations and build sustainable community-based relationships centered on raising awareness of food insecurity and to encourage innovative and lasting solutions to provide healthy, affordable food.