Thanksgiving on wheels

Thanksgiving on wheels

St. Louis MetroMarket’s market on wheels brings fresh foods to food deserts and other underserved areas in North St. Louis County 

By Charlotte Beard

Approximately one week before Thanksgiving last year the last stores in the Shop ‘n Save grocery chain closed their doors. For some people in the community these closures caused extra financial hardship due to the food prices at other grocery stores. 

Thanks to collaboration between Healthy Schools Healthy Communities (HSHC) and its community partners with the nonprofit – St. Louis MetroMarket, the community has an opportunity to experience a difference in their spending this coming holiday. St. Louis MetroMarket’s market on wheels (converted metro bus) will be on the grounds of the Emerson Family YMCA, located at3390 Pershall Rd in Ferguson on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

“We’re calling it Thanksgiving Feast,” stated Phedra Nelson, HSHC’s Community Wellness Director for the Gateway Region YMCA. “Everything that will be on the bus that day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be everything imaginable that you would cook for Thanksgiving dinner. This is when people buy cases of collard greens, mustard greens, sweet potatoes, yams, etc. They (will) have other traditional things on the bus as well as meat, corn meal, bread – everything will be centered around things you need for Thanksgiving dinner.” 

The St. Louis MetroMarket is a 501c3 nonprofit mobile farmers’ market. The organization transformed a donated city bus into a grocery store on wheels to serve areas identified as food deserts. Nelson became aware of the MetroMarket bus when it was only running in St. Louis City. She shared that one bus is used for all routes.

“Every fruit and vegetable imaginable is placed on this bus,” Nelson stated of the bus that starts its weekly routes in May and ends in November. “They get the produce from farmers here in Missouri and place those (items) on the bus for purchase. It looks like a grocery store on wheels. (People) can shop for fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables. They accept EBT, double-up food bucks, cash, and credit cards. Everything is so affordable. The prices are ridiculously low. It’s unbelievable.”

HSHC’s partnership with St. Louis MetroMarket began in 2017 following Nelson’s research to find out more about the traveling MetroMarket and reaching out to the Executive Director, Lucas Signorelli.

“I drove him around North County – showed him how important it is for the bus to be out (here) and told him that I had funding to pay for a couple of stops in North County.”

Nelson shared that HSHC received five-year grant funding from Gateway Region YMCA and the Missouri Foundation for Health. Dellwood Recreation Center became the first stop in North County for the MetroMarket bus.

Nelson has collaborated with Reggie Jones, Mayor of Dellwood and Ella Jones, Ferguson Councilwoman in securing the traveling bus’s presence in North County annually between May and November. St. Louis MetroMarket invited the mayor and councilwoman to become board members after the initiative for North County began and they remain current members. 

Nelson stated, “They have been influential in making sure we keep the bus out here in North County. I’ve connected (MetroMarket) with the school districts as well.”

HSHC’s mission in North County focuses on combating childhood obesity in Ferguson-Florissant, Riverview Gardens and Normandy School Districts. Since Nelson’s quest began for more presence of the MetroMarket bus in North County, she states that the bus has been at Riverview Gardens and Moline Elementary School. In 2018 the bus had weekly funding for stops in the Canfield Green community where the Ferguson unrest took place. In collaboration with Michael McMillan, Urban League’s President and CEO, this year HSHC’s funding secured stops on the grounds of the Ferguson Community Empowerment Center (FCEC) located on West Florissant where the former QuikTrip existed in 2014.

Nelson shared that weekly Friday service provided on the grounds of FCEC by the MetroMarket bus between May 3 and Nov. 8 this year yielded the following numbers: $10,227.27 in sales, 910 transactions, 3,730 people fed, and 5,660 lbs. of food sold. FCEC’s last stop for the year will be Friday, Nov. 22, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

“My hope is that we can continue,” stated Nelson. “Food justice is a major advocacy for me because it is needed, especially here in North County.”

To view the schedule for other stops in and outside North County until Nov. 26, visit https://www.stlmetromarket.com/about/schedule. To learn more about the mission of HSHC visit https://www.bjcschooloutreach.org/healthy-schools-healthy-communities.

CUTLINE: Submitted photos St. Louis MetroMarket’s market on wheels (converted metro bus) will be on the grounds of the Emerson Family YMCA, located at3390 Pershall Rd in Ferguson on Tuesday, Nov. 26.