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I want healthy/fresh food choices for my family, but I can't be there, because I don't have the financial means to get there.

In 2017 we started a transportation program with a local organization and Detroit community/farmer markets/gardens.

Photo of Stephanie Morris
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Our solution would benefit seniors and low income residents that have limited access to healthy, fresh food due to lack of transportation.  We would connect with senior and low income housing and transport them to their neighborhood or closet community/farmers market in their area.  We would run continuious shuttle service for the hours of operation of the specific market and specific day.

How will your solution benefit residents, workers, or visitors in the Michigan Central Station impact area? (1,000 characters)

Our solution would benefit residents, particularly the underserved in our community, be it in the Michigan Central Station Impact Area and/or throughout metro Detroit. Access to healthy food reduces many medical problems, including obesity, and it also teaches our kids at an early age, the importance of eating healthy food. Starting at an early age, is fundamental in having a good start of eating what is good for the body and soul. In November/December 2018 Ford Motor Company started a ride sharing program, Ford GoRide, to transport low income residents to doctors appointments. We could use the same concept to transport low income residents to community and farmers markets in the metro area.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Pilot - you have implemented your solution in a real-world scenario

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

In 2017 we transported 3 days per week (Wed. Thur. and Sat.) Wednesday - 3 sites - 45 passengers Thursday (morning) - 3 sites - 35 passengers - - Thursday (afternoon) 4 sites - 63 passengers Saturday - 2 sites - 27 passengers In 2018 we transported 3 days per week (Tues., Wed, and Thurs.) Tuesday - 1 site w/buildings on site - 103 passengers Wednesday - 4 sites - 71 passengers Thursday (morning) - 3 sites - 58 -passengers - (afternoon) 6 sites - 171 passengers 2019 funding eliminat

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

website - Stephanie Morris - team leader - owner of Very Special Van Service, LLC Taria Morris - office manager Susan Williams - operations manager Marsha Cheeks - presenter Joyce Lacy - presenter

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Team or Organization URL

Are you submitting as a student team?

  • No

Are you submitting as a team from the Impact Area?

  • No

Funding Request

  • $250,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

Insurance - 1000-1500/per month/per vehicle (10-15 passenger vehicles) Drivers - $ 12.50 - $ 15.00 - per hour Dispatchers - $ 10.00 - $ 12.50 per hour Management - $ 25.00 - $ 30.00 per hour Mechanic - on an as needed basis - depends on the mechanical problem Office staff - $ 10.00 - $ 15.00 per hour Gas - varies - $ 400 - $ 500 per month/per vehicle Maintenance/repairs - varies Vehicles - $ 3000 - $ 4000 used ambulatory and wheelchair vehicle Marketing - $ 500 - $ 1,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

During the pilot phase we would: look at numbers (how many people are we transporting); seek feedback from passengers, market managers and site coordinators; measure our performance; talk with other site coordinators to see if their building is interested in being transported to the gardens; identify areas that need improvement, adjust as needed; connect with social agencies (DHH, DAAA). Resources - use current staffing, purchase one used wheelchair accessible vehicle. Outreach - connect with other market managers and site coordinators - there are farmer and community markets throughout metro Detroit and some operate year round (The Eastern Market, Brightmoore Artisans Market, Peaches and Greens Store), while others operate from June/July to September/October. This is not a problem only for Detroiters but our metro area (Wayne, Oakland & Macomb counties).

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

We would measure success by: an increase in the number of residents we are transporting to community gardens; an increase in the community gardens visited (outside of Detroit); participation from kids; introduce them to other programs related to healthy food choices (Keep Growing Detroit, Garden Resource Program, etc.), increased enrollment in cooking classes at the Eastern Market (nutrition education); learn how to start and maintain a garden (vegetables, fruit and herbs). If we could identify a funding source, that would be the ultimate measure of success. I don't think connecting with the markets, sites and residents would be a problem, as the need it there/here. As you can see, the numbers in some cases doubled from 2017 to 2018.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

Yes, our idea is sustainable. There are community gardens thru out metro Detroit (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties) and numerous senior/low income properties that would be interested. We could connect with social agencies (DHH, Detroit Area Agency on Aging/DAAA, WIC offices, community center, churches, etc.) to provide transportation to healthy, fresh food. Revenue - seek grants, or community organizations and corporations to offset the cost - most of the residents can't afford to pay.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

Stephanie Morris Thank you for sharing another proposal! I agree that fresh and healthy food should be accessible to everyone. It is so vital to health and wellness. I love that you have created a transportation program to address this issue. What kind of lessons did you learn when providing this program in the past? What changes would you make to this service in the future?

Photo of Stephanie Morris

Hi Mackenzie: Thank you for the encouraging words. The lesson I keep learning, is that everyone agrees of the need of both of my programs, (getting to work and access to healthy food), however, no one wants to pay for it. It's really unbelieveable. The budget for the healthy food program was either reduced or eliminated for 2019. I only provided service to two markets (Market on the Ave., and NW Detroit Farmers Market) and that was due to them having a strong community base and having a small budget. The markets usually run from May/June to Sept/Oct. This year the Market on the Ave. did 4 weeks (one day per week) and the NW Detroit Farmers Market did 5 weeks (one day per week). There are some markets (Brightmoor Artisans Farmers Market, Eastern Market and Peaches and Greens Store) are open year round. In addition, the Eastern Market has 30+ farm stands in Metro Detroit.

I also learned that the residents really enjoy the markets, as their money goes along way and it is also an outing, they get to socialize with other residents in the community. Some of the markets accept Bridgte Cards, WIC/Senior Project Fresh, Fresh Prescription, Double Up Food Bucks and other forms of payment. There is also a summer program for kids called Meet Up and Eat Up. Though, I did not transport any kids (with their parents or grandparents) this year, I have in prior years and the kids really enjoyed it. It is a way to introduce kids to healthy food choices and if they start eating healthy at an early age, it will transition into adulthood, making healthy eating a lifestyle. Kids could learn how to start a garden (from the beginning/soil preparation to the end/vegetables/fruit/herbs). There are also cooking classes for kids and adults.

What changes would I make in the future - market/advertise, market/advertise, market/advertise - many senior buildings are not aware of the service being offered and it is free to residents (at least from 2017 - 2019). Though I am only the transportation provider, I would love to work with the Eastern Market and other food organizations to expand the service to those in need. We could reach out to churches, schools, hospitals, human services agencies, food agencies (Gleaners, Capuchin Soup Kitchen, etc.).

I may consider starting a non profit and seeking grants to provide transportation for (getting to/from work and access to healthy food).

Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

Thank you for all of the additional information! It sounds like there is a very high need in the community and also a lot of demand. It would be great if community members had access to fresh produce year-round. Have you noticed any segments of the populations that are unable to use the services at the times of operations but still have a lot of interest in transportation to these markets? Thank you for your passion about this important issue!

Photo of Stephanie Morris

Good Morning Mackenzie:

I hope I am understanding your question.

No, I have not noticed any residents that wanted to use the service outside of the hours of operation. That is because I am only at the sites and markets on the day of operation (during the specific day and/or time). However, I am sure there are residents who would like to participate but can't due to other engagements (doctor appointments, sick, not in the budget for the specific day, or other personal needs/obligations) to occur on the day of the market in their area.

There could be instances where the market in their respective community/area is not open, but we could transport them to another farmers/community market that is either open year round, or in another city (Royal Oak, Lathrup Village, Waterford, etc.).