The Northside of downtown Wilmington hasn’t had a fully functioning grocery store in more than 30 years. It’s a disturbing piece of information to process, considering how many people would benefit from a place to access nutritional foods. “Yet, certain areas, such as Mayfaire [near the gated community of Landfall] have developed to include five-plus grocery stores,” says Jordyn Appel, Local Motive Mobile Farmers Market program director from Feast Down East.
It’s a regular recurrence in Wilmington: People in food deserts or vulnerable neighborhoods continue to lack access to healthy groceries, while stores aplenty pop up in Wilmington suburbia. Pine Valley is surrounded by a Food Lion, Aldi and Publix under a one-mile radius. Neighborhoods at Independence and Oleander have access to Harris Teeter, Whole Foods and soon-to-be-Lidl, all of which are across the street from each other. Meanwhile, folks at Dawson and 3rd or Campbell and 5th don’t have a grocery store within a three-to-five-mile radius. That’s where Feast Down East’s Local Motive Mobile Farmers Market comes into play. It serves seven out 10 recognized food deserts in our area, some of which are new from growth in New Hanover County and Wilmington, compared to the 2010 Census’ last mapping of them.
“For instance, Greenfield Street is not considered a food desert based off of [old] data,” Appel says, “but a fire in April of 2018 caused this region to lose their one grocery store [Everybody’s], creating another food desert between two existing ones. Though we are trying to target areas and neighborhoods in food deserts, we recognize one can be experiencing food insecurity while living in a tract that is not considered to be a food desert.”
Having launched in January of 2019, Local Motive Mobile Farmers Market came from Feast Down East’s Healthy Communities Program. The mobile unit ensures lower-income communities can afford and receive healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats. It’s funded and supported by the USDA, Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA), Whole Cities Foundation, Veggie Van Study, New Hanover County Transportation, Conservation Fund, New Hanover County Department of Public Health, New Hanover Regional Medical Center and Seaview Crab Company. In partnership with the Wilmington Housing Authority, Local Motive operates out of a refrigerated Ford transit van. On a weekly basis, it shows up in various neighborhoods owned by the housing authority: Vesta Village, Solomon Towers, Eastbrook, Woodbridge, Robert Taylor Senior Homes, Creekwood South, Glover Plaza, Houston Moore, Rankin Terrace and Hillcrest. In May they will expand to Communities in Schools—The WIRE; Seaview Crab Company’s Castle Hayne Stand; the Brigade Boys and Girls Club; and New Brooklyn Home/The Point in October.
“We have intentions of reaching more after-school programs and faith-based centers and parks within the next year,” Appel says.
All produce, proteins and dairy comes directly from Feast Down East’s food hub and distribution center in Burgaw. Feast Down East works to build relationships that help local farmers and in turn “provide equitable food access in communities with the greatest need.” FDE buys the mobile unit’s wares wholesale from farmers. They then reduce those prices up to 25% when they host markets in vulnerable areas. Local Motive also accepts SNAP/EBT and participates in Fresh Bucks. The latter basically matches food bought at the mobile farmers market dollar for dollar, as funded through the year 2022 by RAFI-USA.
“Each dollar a SNAP recipient withdraws from their account to spend on their purchase at Local Motive will be matched an additional dollar, for up to a total of $20 Fresh Bucks,” Appel says. “Simply enough, if a customer spends $5 in food stamps, we can then provide them with $5 of free food via Fresh Bucks.”
While feeding the public and keeping the food local is part of their mission, Local Motive also hosts food demonstrations, does taste testings, and leads health and exercise activities, plus provides resources at their markets. They give free recipe cards and books to customers, all of whom have responded positively to the Local Motive’s operation in its first year. 84% of returning customers have provided feedback via surveys, reporting satisfaction reflective of their needs, including receipt of fresh produce, convenience of location, and use of EBT, with EBT and Fresh Bucks sales consisting of 31% of total sales.
Each year Feast Down East hosts various fundraisers to keep the community informed of programming and maintain services throughout the community. They just hosted their local food conference in February, and next month they’ll have a local foods tasting at Jerry’s Wine and Spirits in Wrightsville Beach, prepared by Chef Will Doss. On Thursday night, however, they’ll have their van set up at Local Food and Brews, a fundraiser hosted by The Christian Cardamone Team of Keller Williams, in partnership with On Q Financial.
“As Wilmington natives for over 25 years, we’ve seen how our local community comes together in support of missions that lend to the growth of this special town,” says Cardamone team member Liz Eesley. “As real estate professionals, it’s a great privilege to be able to venture into various communities and see the deep history and connect in a more meaningful way.”
The Cardamone Team holds fundraisers every quarter and donates a portion of commissions to community initiatives through Keller Williams philanthropy. They also volunteer for organizations like WARM and the Greater Carolinas MS Society.
“The Local Motive Farmers Market is a nonprofit we hold near and dear to our hearts, as it’s able to offer year-round, weekly pop-up farmers markets to vulnerable neighborhoods in our community,” Eesley continues. “We at Keller treat everyone as if they are our neighbor and strive to make sure everyone has access to basic human needs. These values align perfectly with the work the Local Motive Mobile Farmers Market provides.”
The Christian Cardamone Team is hosting the event in their own neighborhood at 16th and Queen streets in The Cargo District’s newest business, Alcove Beer Garden. Folks who attend can purchase produce from Local Motive while enjoying a beer from Alcove. Plus, there will be raffles.
“It’s going to be super fun and a great way to learn about food insecurities and vulnerable neighborhoods right here under our noses,” Eesley says.