SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – A new mobile grocery market will be hitting Sioux Falls neighbors this fall. 

Sioux Falls Thrive and the Sioux Falls Health Department announced the launching of a pilot program called Eat Well Mobile Market with the goal to provide access to healthy food options in specific neighborhoods around the city. Sioux Falls has eight different neighborhoods in the city that are considered food access priority areas — or food deserts. That means those areas have limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

The announcement came during a city news conference on Wednesday and officials said the program will model similar projects in the Twin Cities and Kansas City.

The Food Group in Minnesota started a mobile market program in 2020 which is a grocery store on a bus. The Twins Cities mobile market says it serves nearly 10,000 people in more than 25 sites around St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

Roughly a year ago, the city launched a grant program to give up to $400,000 to provide improved access to healthy food after a health assessment report showed more than 8% of the population had limited access to adequate food. Grocery store closures in 2021 also sparked discussions about “food deserts.”

Along with Sioux Falls Thrive, Fair Market/Empower, First United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Church on the Street, Augustana Research Institute, Active Generations, Sioux Falls Food Co+op and Feeding South Dakota teamed up to develop the mobile market grocery store idea. 

The city will award $250,000 to Sioux Falls Thrive to start the pilot program of the mobile market and officials hope to gain feedback when the program launches sometime near the start of the next school year. 

“We know the mobile market will remove a barrier for community members while presenting the opportunity to build relationships to determine other needs in the area,” Michelle Erpenbach, president of Sioux Falls Thrive, said in a news release. “Collaboration is the only way this initiative is moving forward.” 

Erpenbach says the hope is to have a bus rolling through the streets of Sioux Falls by the Fall giving people in food deserts the opportunity to buy healthy groceries. The initial location and target populations will be in the Cliff and Benson area.

“Shoppers will find items like fresh produce, meat and dairy products and other staples. Anything you would find in a normal grocery store,” Erpenbach said.

Dr. Charles Chima, Public Health Director, said everyone in the community deserves access to affordable and healthy foods. 

“People’s income, age, occupation, what they do, their background, where they live in our community, shouldn’t determine whether they have access to healthy and affordable food,” Chima said.

Erpenbach says depending on how the pilot program goes, permanent locations of the Eat Well Mobile Market could develop in the future.

If you’d like to learn more about helping the Eat Well Mobile Market, you can reach out to Sioux Falls Thrive.