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Perspective | Mobile Market is a community effort to end hunger

Warren and 10 of his 14 children waited patiently outside in the gathering area for their number to come up. The children filled the time by playing on the pool table and by tossing a ball back and forth. Warren sat nearby, keeping an eye on them and an ear tuned toward the woman who was running things in a nearby room. 

This was Warren’s first time at Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Bread for Life Mobile Market.

“I’m looking forward to getting some food for the kids for the holidays. I haven’t worked since 2017. I just got on the food disability but that takes a while to come in,” he said.

Warren’s on disability because of a spinal injury he sustained two years ago, and his wife doesn’t work. He heard about the Mobile Market from the friend of his mother’s.

The Bread for Life Mobile Market operates out of the Zebulon Boys and Girls Club the third Saturday of each month. It is a lifeline for those who come to shop for free for food: shelf-stable items, meats, produce, breads, and pastries. The Mobile Market is open from 10 to 11 a.m., but according to Alesha Alexander, the onsite coordinator, people started lining up that day at 5 a.m. to ensure that they would be able to get food for their households before the items ran out.

Joyce was also in attendance that day. 

“I don’t always come, but I do enjoy it when I do come. I come when I’m with someone I know or when my vegetables are running out,” said Joyce.

Joyce has been coming to the Bread for Life Mobile Market for over a year.  She’s there today because “I need some vegetables. Potatoes!”

Roger Brentley is the volunteer driver for the Market, but he’s also on the Zebulon Town Council and he has his ear to the ground around town and knows when things are happening. Turns out a local merchant was going out of business. Roger was able to get the merchant to donate a significant supply of toys and clothing to the Mobile Market. 

On this particular Saturday, Mobile Market shoppers had the opportunity to shop for Christmas gifts in addition to the much-needed pantry items. Other gift items came from donations from area families and churches. Some were new and some were gently used, but all became gifts for children and other family members. There was even on-site gift wrapping provided. Volunteer Sophia Williams kept everything running like clockwork and made sure that everyone who needed  or wanted to do some holiday “shopping” was able to do so.

Sandra was another first-timer at the Bread for Life Mobile Market that Saturday. 

“A family member brought me here to get some help with food and items for my house. I came from Atlanta with nothing. I moved to Raleigh a month ago,” she said as she waited for her number to be called.

“I’m having a wonderful time today. I really enjoyed the soup,” she added, referring to the cream of vegetable soup sample provided by Dietetic Intern Shannon Vasilinda as part of Food Matters through the Community Health Education program of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle — presented to shoppers as they waited for the Market to open.

 It takes a well-organized army of volunteers to make such an enterprise run smoothly. According to Alesha Alexander, some of the volunteers return every month, some are one-timers. There are student groups, groups come from different churches, and on this particular Saturday, a motorcycle club — the Cobra One out of Nashville, North Carolina — came out to lend a hand. 

Six-year-old Braxton comes every month, as does Dr. Shelly West, who said she was there “spreading holiday joy for people who are often choosing between medicine and food.” Diane, who volunteers every month, came because her neighbor Roger (Brentley, the driver) brought her. “I got my sister to start coming and now she comes every month and brings her kids,” she said.

It’s a community-wide effort. For a full listing of Mobile Markets, including the coordinators and their contact numbers, click here.

Editor’s note: This perspective was first published by Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. It has been posted with the author’s permission.

Laura Rice

Laura Rice is the communications and media manager for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle which seeks to innovate with transformative solutions to end hunger in seven counties in central North Carolina.