A local bus is bringing a taste of the farm to homes on a budget.
The "Arcadia Mobile Market" rolls into needy communities in Northern Virginia and the district four days a week. It's only been on the road for a couple of months, and already crowds are lining up for a deal.
Anyone craving fresh fruit and veggies can shop at this market on wheels. But what makes it so special is how it helps families, who are struggling to pay their grocery bills, cash in on fresh food at a discounted price.
“I was very surprised and excited to find fresh vegetables,” said Alexandria resident Jessica Tynes.
It's not every day you see a big yellow school bus transformed into a green haven for all things "farm fresh."
“I like this a lot. It looks like it's going to be very convenient for a lot of people,” said Mt. Vernon resident Mary Morris.
The "Arcadia Mobile Market" parked itself Thursday outside the South County Center on Richmond Highway in Alexandria.
“It's a really, really good idea. I really love it,” said Alexandria shopper Fatima Nushin.
For Nushin, it really was “love at first sight.”
“I'm always looking for the organic food for my kids,” she said.
But, buying organic on a budget is a battle. The mother of two boys joins over 46 million people each month in our nation who rely on food stamps for meal time. The mobile market allows for people to stock up on peaches, peppers, corn, and almost anything else—all grown at a nearby farm—without breaking the bank.
“It's incredibly rewarding,” said Mobile Market Director Benjamin Bartley.
Bartley credits donor and grant money as a mean for funding a "bonus bucks" program. Families shopping with government food vouchers can cash in.
“It's basically a double value coupon. You come to our mobile market with any of these payment methods and with 5 dollars you would get 10 dollars of fruits and vegetables and with 10 dollars or with 10 dollars or benefit, you would get 20 dollars’ worth of fruits or vegetables,” Bartley said.
You can also stock up on milk, meat and eggs.
The federal government is also taking notice. On Thursday, a top official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped by the market to check things out. The Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs said in an e-mail to News Channel 8 “I applaud the success of the mobile market and their effort to provide locally grown, nutritious fruits and vegetables to underserved communities."
The mobile market is also big on education. It rolls up to area schools during the school year and teaches students about nutrition—where their food comes from and also, how to cook.