Hunger Fellows Offer Mobile Market
Some Guilford students have taken a big step in combating hunger and food issues in the Greensboro area.
The students recently completed a test run of a Mobile Market to bring fresh produce to local food deserts as part of the College’s Farmers Market.
“The goal has always been for the on-campus market to fuel support and funding for the Mobile Market,” said Hunger Fellow Helen Mandalinic.
“As a Hunger Fellow, I really try to not only talk to people on campus who have access to these products, but bring awareness to the imbalances in our country, and get people to care and realize how relevant farmers and hunger are to our collective human experience.
“We don’t want to just do service and go home and not think about the issue; we want to create action, because food shouldn’t be a privilege.”
A food desert is an area where the residents have no nearby grocery stores, and instead often have an abundance of convenience stores and fast food restaurants. Thus, it can be hard for residents in food deserts to maintain a healthy diet. The Mobile Market aims to combat this problem.
Getting the Mobile Market started wasn’t without challenges. Getting people to come to the on-campus market, bringing in new vendors, increasing the number of volunteers, planning with sites to host the Mobile Market, and funding all provided challenges for getting the Mobile Market up and running, according to Helen.
“However, all of these challenges have really served as part of our experiential learning and we are finding solutions to these problems,” Helen said.
“Success isn’t a linear process, sometimes there are hiccups, but that is what makes the Market so vital for student learning: They can get real life skills while still being allowed make mistakes.”
Meeting those challenges was greatly helped by having willing volunteers to work with.
“As the founder of this project, working last summer trying to make things happen alone was hard,” said Helen.
“Katie Maloney had joined me in the fall semester, as well as (Hunger Fellow) Chelsey Wilson, and we set the groundwork to be able to utilize volunteers. This spring semester we got our volunteers, and we have the best of the best on this campus.
“Seeing these students come, be excited and engaged has been awesome. Watching our group make friends at the community we partnered has been great.”
The volunteers not only made friends with each other, but with those they were helping.
“During our mobile market pilot we had a man regularly come by to just talk with us,” Helen said. “It was great to see volunteers helping this man speak English and learn the words for what we had at our market, then watching the man teach our group Arabic words for the items was a really cool moment.”
With the pilot run done, Helen feels that the Mobile Market will be ready for next year.
“The three weeks the Mobile Market ran was our pilot to get us out there, learn, and be able to make changes and growth over the summer,” said Helen. “We did just that, so I would say it has been 100 percent successful.
“In the end if we build community and relationships where we go, or are able to just bring food to one person, the project is a success. It’s not about making money — all our Mobile Market prices are suggested, but negotiable.
“So even if people just come to practice English, or practice using American money, and don’t end up buying anything at all, that is valuable.”
The Hunger Fellows work in collaboration with the Bonner Center and are open to more partnerships in the community, as well as with vendors for both the on-campus market and the Mobile Market.
Story by David Pferdekamper ’12