Residents of South King County “food deserts” may soon have a new option for buying healthy, sustainable produce: a green cart.
Green Cart Cooperative, a mobile produce cart cooperative in the Seattle/King County area, will give low-income, underserved people living in food deserts (defined as an area without easy local access to food) access to EBT/SNAP-eligible local produce. Pinchot University’s Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) has received a USDA Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) planning grant to study the feasibility of the business.
“The SeaTac-Tukwila area experiences great economic and health disparities,” said Mike Skinner, executive director of CIE. “While King County is one of the wealthiest regions in the country, almost 40% of households in the SeaTac-Tukwila area live below 200% of the federal poverty line, and 80% of students are on free or reduced lunch.”
The social enterprise cooperative of independent mobile produce cart operators will operate in LFPP-priority census tracts in SeaTac, Tukwila and South Seattle, giving low-income, underserved communities in South King County increased access to locally produced fruits and vegetables and develop new market opportunities for local farmers. As part of CIE’s Food Enterprise Development Program, Green Cart Cooperative would also connect low-income residents to economic opportunities in the food sector.
One recent immigrant from East Africa was excited about the idea of a food cart in her neighborhood. “Back home, there were lots. They sold organic. That was important.” Fresh, affordable produce is difficult to find in her SeaTac neighborhood. “Especially for me, because I do not drive it would be nice to have a food cart.”
CIE is partnering with Global to Local, members of the Food Innovation Network, Pinchot University, and local governments to conduct a series of listening sessions and surveys that will guide and inform the structure of the cooperative business model. The feasibility plan will include a market assessment and business plan for the cooperative.
Want to help? A short survey is available at http://tinyurl.com/CIE-survey and listening sessions are currently being scheduled. Community groups interested in hosting a listening session at their location should contact Mieka Briejer.