Social Justice and Access to Food

U.S. mobile produce market purveyors to convene in Buffalo March 24-25

2nd annual summit at UB will help mobile markets plant seeds of success

BUFFALO, N.Y. — For the second year in a row, mobile produce market operators from across the U.S. will visit Buffalo for a two-day summit.

The second annual Mobile Market Summit is set for March 24-25 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and builds off the success of last year’s event, the nation’s first-ever gathering of mobile produce market representatives.

“Mobile markets are becoming an increasingly popular solution to food access challenges in many communities. I helped start a mobile market when there weren’t many other models to follow and understand how challenging it can be to start what is basically a small business from scratch,” said summit organizer Lucia Leone, PhD, assistant professor of community health and health behavior in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.

“I think that being able to learn and be supported by others who are dealing with the same challenges really helps improve the likelihood of success,” added Leone.

The summit is being organized by UB researchers in partnership with Megan Huang, fresh truck program director for About Fresh; Elyse Guidas, executive director of Discovery Triangle Development Corporation/Farm Express; and Frederic Laforge, co-founder of

About 100 participants attended last year’s event, and the team hopes to bring even more people this year. Attendees range from representatives of organizations that are interested in starting a mobile produce market, to those who already have one and want to network with their peers from across the country and learn best practices, as well as potential funders. UB researchers and students also will attend.

There are two keynote speakers this year: Sean C. Lucan, MD, MPH, associate professor of family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and Devita Davison, executive director of FoodLab Detroit.

Lucan’s talk on the afternoon of March 24 will focus on increasing access to healthy food options through mobile markets. His talk is open to UB students, faculty and staff courtesy of funding from UB’s Center for Ingestive Behavior Research.

Lucan is a practicing family physician in the Bronx. He is also an award-winning NIH-funded investigator, who has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and thought pieces on food-related issues.

Lucan’s research centers on how different aspects of urban food environments may influence what people eat, and what the implications are for obesity and chronic diseases, particularly in low-income and minority communities. Another focus of his work is the critical examination of clinical guidance and public health initiatives related to nutrition.

Davison’s talk on March 25, which is free and open to the public thanks to funding from the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc., will discuss the relationship between food access and social justice.

The daughter of a preacher, Davison is a Detroit native who returned home in 2012 after living in New York for nearly 19 years. Davison has delivered TED Talks decrying injustices in the food system and expounding on the beauty of a ripe strawberry in summer.

FoodLab is a community of food entrepreneurs committed to making the possibility of good food in Detroit a sustainable reality by designing, building and maintaining systems to grow a diverse ecosystem of triple-bottom-line food businesses in Detroit.

In addition to hosting the Mobile Market Summit, Leone’s team also runs the Veggie Van study which is funded in part by a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.

The study’s aims include identifying whether mobile markets do, in fact, change the way people eat, and providing current and prospective veggie van operators with a toolkit and technical assistance on everything from setting up a mobile market to maintaining a financially sustainable operation.

In July, researchers announced funding for nine organizations across four states that the Veggie Van project will partner with over the next few years. The team will help each organization either start or expand a mobile market. Each of the nine partners will operate their markets in up to four neighborhoods in their area for a total of 32 community sites that will be studied.

The Veggie Van study has the potential to significantly impact the mobile produce market landscape at a time when such markets are popping up around the nation.

“We’ve heard from a lot of people across the country who are interested in starting mobile produce markets,” said Anne Lally, who joined UB in January as outreach coordinator for the Veggie Van study.

Support for the summit is being provided by several sponsor organizations, including: Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, Alexandria, Virginia; UB Center for Ingestive Behavior Research; Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus; Project Best Life, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; and About Fresh, Boston, Massachusetts.

Registration is available on the Mobile Market Summit website.