By Anthony Scott — Lakeland PBS
Sprout is a non-profit organization based out of Little Falls that works to keep the local agricultural economy strong, and today Sprout received a new set of wheels to bring local produce to families in need.
After months of fundraising and support from the Otto Bremer Trust, Sprout was able to secure enough funds to purchase a van that will be used as a mobile food market.
“So, this vehicle will allow us to take some of the pieces of our food hub, local food aggregation and distribution, and some of the fun activities that happen around the marketplace, we get to now take that out on the road,” Natalie Keane, Sprout’s Facility Utilization Director, said.
Sprout collaborated with IMED Mobility, which specializes in making wheelchair-accessible vehicles, to create their own custom van for their mobile market.
“We’re going to lose seating, we’re going to lose some of the interior panels, but what we are going to do is we’re going to maximize space,” Justin Alain, IMED Mobility’s General Manager, said. “That was the biggest importance for what Arlene and Natalie wanted for Sprout.”
The van also comes with a wheelchair-accessible lift which will make it easy for Sprout to load and unload their inventory.
“We do really think this van will serve our needs,” Keane said. “It has great space so that we can really have a great selection of inventory to offer folks.”
Sprout plans to add refrigeration and a freezer system to the van so they can also bring fresh meats and dairy products to rural regions.
“Our five-county region has two of the highest low-income, low-access areas; a lot of our schools are also facing high percentages of free and reduced lunches which is an indicator of food access needs,” Keane said. “So, we definitely believe that this mobile market will help fill in some of those missing meal gaps.”
The mobile market won’t only be bringing food to local families, but Sprout is also collaborating with local artists to bring entertainment to each stop along the way.
“It’s gratifying to have the van here and see how excited they are, and see what they are going to be able to do for the community of Central Minnesota,” Alain said. “That’s a big thing for us: we always want to help, and we think that this is the perfect van that’s going to get their mission accomplished.”
The mobile market is expected to launch at the start of the harvesting season.
Sprout is also looking for someone to come up with a design for their mobile food market. The design contest starts March 1st, with the winning artist taking home a $1,000 prize package. For more information, visit www.sproutmn.com/mobilemarket.