DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Homefull, an organization initially started to fight homelessness, is now celebrating a year of helping community members fight food insecurity.
The organization opened a mobile grocery store in late October of 2020 as many Miami Valley residents were facing increased financial difficulties due to the pandemic. As a result, Trudy Elder, chief strategic officer for the organization, said the store has been able to service thousands of community members since it opened last year.
“Here we are a year later. I mean that is so hard to believe. Homefull is so proud and pleased to have been able to not only launch a local grocery store in our community, we did it during a pandemic and one year later, the program is thriving. It is serving people all across Montgomery County with a particular focus on service to vulnerable populations and low-income people that live in food deserts.” she said.
Homefull is able to operate the mobile store by partnering with community organizations including churches, community centers, and retirement centers to park the expansive vehicle on their properties. The semi truck, which “unfolds” into a grocery store, has items comparable to those at brick-and-mortar grocery operations.
“So we’ve got frozen foods, we have fresh, healthy produce, fruits and vegetables. We have…meats and dairy,” said Elder.
St. Mary’s Development Corporation is one of Homefull’s partner organizations. Natalynne Baker, vice president of resident services for the nonprofit, said these items and services have enhanced the quality of life for low-income seniors for whom they help provide affordable housing.
“One of the things that [our residents] were most excited about is frozen foods,” she said. “I mean if you think about it, if you’re possibly a slower walker than the average, then you’re on the bus for an hour, by the time you get home you wonder, is your milk okay? Is your ice cream melted? So it gave our residents an opportunity to actually shop multiple times without riding the bus for an hour or trying to have their home health aide do the shopping for them.”
The grocery store has also considered a number of other accommodations for community members over the last year, taking steps to make the store handicap accessible, accepting government benefits such as SNAP and food stamps, offering a price matching program to purchase fruit and vegetables, and partnering with Dayton’s Regional Transportation Authority to bring community members to the mobile site when it’s nearby. One of their largest accomplishments, however, has been increasing transportation opportunities for community members through their own organization.
“In this first year of operation, Homefull was able to purchase our own ride along support vehicle,” said Elder. “It’s a shuttle bus as well. So when we’re out at a community site, we can also take our shuttle, drive around, pick up interested folks and bring them to shop on the mobile grocery store.”
Baker added, as her organization continues to partner with Homefull, she hopes other organizations will come on board as host sites in the coming year.
Elder said all community members can support the future of the mobile grocery store by purchasing groceries when they see it in community. She said there are no specific requirements to shop and the more customers purchase, the more money the organization can invest in restocking the shelves.
To view a list of Homefull’s community partners, click here.
To view the seasonally updated schedule of locations, click here.