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Converted bus to roll affordable groceries into food deserts

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The Twin Cities Mobile Market will be on the road this summer, bringing affordable groceries to parts of the city where fresh food is rare.

The Business Journal reports the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation is behind the mobile market, which will be in a remodeled, refitted Metro Transit bus. The idea for the project comes from Wilder Foundation program director Leah Driscoll, who wrote her master's thesis on mobile markets in other cities.

"We are looking at access to healthy food as key factor in well-being," Driscoll said.

Lillie Suburban News reported the bus will offer fresh produce, dairy, cuts of meat, spices and some packaged goods. The food will be bought at wholesale prices and marked up just enough to cover costs, making it more affordable than comparable products at stand-alone stores.

The bus will likely go to a number of St. Paul locations, with a focus on the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood. A citywide survey of residents found only a fifth of Dayton’s Bluff residents buy groceries in their own neighborhood. With many residents dependent on public transit, the goal is to make it easier to get fresh food within residents’ own neighborhoods.

The bus will get a makeover inside and out. The exterior will feature images of fresh produce, Driscoll said, “so it will be bold and beautiful."

Last month, Metro Transit's blog Rider's Almanac had a story about how some other retired Metro Transit buses sold at auction are being put to creative re-use by non-profits.

The Rock ‘n’ Read Project is gearing up for a summer debut. It will use computer programs and music to help students boost their reading skills.

The Art Bus project (pictured) is a roaming artist studio for youth. It will drive throughout the metro to provide art programming at multifamily housing complexes, youth centers and areas where transportation can be a challenge

Regional and federal guidelines say a transit bus may remain in service for 12 years. Many Metro Transit buses that go up for auction at the conclusion of their in-service life are dismantled and sold for parts or acquired by private bus companies. Others have gone to smaller transit providers, and some have been shipped as far as Africa.

D.J. Jones of Hollandale, Minnesota drove a bus that he purchased to Chicago to be in the filming of Transformers 4. The bus was in hundreds of takes over a month of shooting, he said. Though largely painted over in orange and green, Jones captured a photo with the "Circle T" still visible on the roof (pictured). Be watching for it when the movie premieres in June. And be watching for that bus in real life!

“I'm taking my kids and we’re going to drive that bus to the movies when it comes out in the theaters,” Jones said.

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