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Students at UNT Dallas Work to Help Those in Food Deserts

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Food deserts — locations where there are hardly any grocery stores with fresh fruit or vegetables — have unfortunately become increasingly prevalent in many areas across the nation. Southern Dallas is one of those areas, and students from the University of North Texas Dallas are working to help out with a special mobility initiative.

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At the start of this school year, UNT Dallas students will lead the mobility initiative to convert a low-emission bus, provided by Dallas Area Rapid Transit, into a mobile food market. Toyota supported this project with a $268,000 grant that will help retrofit the bus so the students can sell fresh fruits and vegetables sources from local community gardens to residents in southern Dallas.

“If we can help connect the community to fresh produce and healthy food, we can help fuel a young person’s development, learning, and progress toward adult success,” said UNT Dallas biology professor Kelly Varga, whose work in a southern Dallas neighborhood gained the attention of Toyota as it seeks to advance its own mobility strategy. “The project nurtures social mobility through wholesome meaningful education and outreach.”

farmers market fresh produce

Fresh produce can be hard to come by for some in southern Dallas
Photo: Natalie Maynor

The national average of food insecurity is 14.9 percent, with Dallas well exceeding that at 20.6 percent. What’s more, children suffer significantly, at 26.6 percent food insecurity compare to the national average of 22.4 percent.

Thanks to DART, the converted compressed natural gas bus will not only serve as a mobile farmer’s market, but also as a tool to help the program educate the community on healthy living and professional development.

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“DART, like UNT-Dallas and Toyota, is always looking for ways to do more to help the communities we serve. In this area, improving access to healthy food is one of those ways,” said Jesse D. Oliver, DART Deputy Executive Director. “We are pleased to work with them to provide a bus that will be converted to a mobile farmer’s market filled with healthy food options.”

If you’re in the Dallas area, keep an eye out for the bus to hit the streets in the spring of 2019.