Urbanite Project 2012: Healthy Food Challenge
Competition Submission by Megan (Schwartz) Griffith
The “Food Bus”is a visionary solution to a fundamental issue: Baltimore City’s food deserts.Food deserts are areas with limited access to healthy food. Although thischallenge is common in cities all across America, a panacea has not yet beenidentified. The Food Bus is a multifaceted concept which tackles many of thebarriers standing between Baltimore residents and healthy food. Using arefurbished school bus with an electric engine, the Food Bus is an efficientvehicle for bridging such a gap. Dividing its length into three segments, theFood Bus focuses on some of the main barriers to healthy food: transportation,education, cost and time. After a oneyear Food Bus trial, additional fleets can be assigned throughout Baltimorewith any necessary modifications.
The first ten feet of the Food Bus’ interior function as a shuttle.Each Food Bus is assigned to a region of Baltimore and will rotate routes between5 different neighborhoods during the week. Within each, a produce stand is setup to sell affordable produce from one of Baltimore’s many urban farms. Farmersmarkets are terrific sources for healthy food, but can be difficult to reach. Thispop-up stand brings the same nutritious food directly to the community. For residentswho require additional products, the Food Bus’ year-round shuttle service is analternative to public transportation that provides a direct route and carriespassengers to stores that would otherwise be too far. Furthermore, refrigeratedcompartments keep purchases chilled during the ride. The pop-up stand remainsin place while the shuttle is en route and will operate when produce is inseason. On days without scheduled routes, the Food Bus can transport volunteersto the same urban farms which grow the market’s produce.
The next ten feet are used to prepare and sell healthy food options atpublic events such as farmers’ markets or “The Gathering” food truck rallies. Avending window on the side brings the counter to the curb where affordable andhealthy items are sold. Two greenhouse windows on the opposite side grow herbsand small vegetables. An AC generator provides electricity while a water tanksupplies the water. This same kitchen space can be used when educatingcommunities about cooking healthy meals and growing their own food. The FoodBus can travel to schools for special lessons teaching schoolchildren aboutnutrition and the importance of healthy eating.
The final ten feet accommodate a market and garden center. At events, theFood Bus’ back door can be propped open to create a market space where produceis sold and garden tools are loaned to community members who wish start theirown vegetable garden. For residents who don’t have time to prepare weekdaylunches, the Food Bus offers a junk and fast-food alternative. Subscribers tothe “Brown Bag” meal program pick up five pre-made lunches from the Food Buseach Sunday. Lunch includes fruit, snacks, and a main dish. The programeliminates the time needed to buy and make each meal.