ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – For five years, the L.E.A.P. Mobile Market has made it their mission to bring local, healthy, and fresh food to Roanoke neighborhoods that don’t have easy access to fresh produce.
“There are just geographically some neighborhoods in Roanoke where there aren’t good grocery stores. So maybe a lot of people don’t own cars, so they have to take the bus and any place that sells good fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy foods is just too far to walk to,” says Sam Lev, Co-Director at L.E.A.P.
The Local Environmental Agriculture Project, commonly known as L.E.A.P. is a nonprofit organization that enjoys nurturing healthy communities and creating changes in the local food system. Starting in 2009, organizers wanted to ensure that everyone had access to fresh food while supporting the local farm industry. With farmers markets, farmers were not only expected to grow food, but to sell their produce frequently for profit. By partnering with over 50 farms within 100 miles of the Roanoke Valley, organizers saw how important it was to support the local agriculture industry.
“We work a lot with new and young farmers, which we find to be really fulfilling and exciting because not only are we trying to support local agriculture, but really trying to build a farmer base here in Roanoke too to keep young farmers farming, so really trying to provide that sales opportunity without the added stress of sitting in a farmer’s market doing retail sales,” says Lev.
With the introduction of the L.E.A.P. Mobile Market in 2015, they were able to drive into neighborhoods that don’t have easy access to healthy fruits and vegetables and perform weekly “pop-up” farmers markets.
They also make sure that people can easily afford the local produce through L.E.A.P.’s healthy food incentives program.
“We offer half price for everyone who receives SNAP benefits or food stamps, we do half price for folks who receive Medicaid as well. So it’s really a wide range of ways that we can make sure that people can afford the food, not just see it out in their neighborhood,” says Lev.
The organization also has a “farm share” program, were locals can sign up for a weekly subscription to locally grown food. Lev says it’s another great way to support local farms, and it even helps people make better decisions for their diets.
The L.E.A.P Mobile Market is a part of a movement of farmers markets and mobile markets coming together to make sure good quality is readily available and easily affordable for people. Lev says while there may not be a need for another mobile market anytime soon, the organization is excited to work with new farmers, have access to new produce, and even expand their pop-up locations.
The L.E.A.P. Mobile Market runs from May through October, four times a week with different locations across the Roanoke Valley. The weekly stops schedule is listed below:
2:00 – 3:00 pm: Melrose Towers, 3038 Melrose Ave NW
3:30 – 4:45 pm: Greenvale School, 627 Westwood Blvd NW
11:00 am – 1:00 pm: Old Southwest, corner of 5th & Mountain Ave SW
1:30 – 2:15 pm: Morningside Manor, 1020 13th St SE
2:30 – 4:00 pm: Dept. of Social Services @ Civic Mall, 1510 Williamson Rd NE
4:30 – 5:30 pm: New Horizons Healthcare, 3716 Melrose Ave NW
11:00 am – 1:00 pm: V.A. Medical Center, 1970 Roanoke Blvd, Salem
1:30 – 2:30 pm: Blue Ridge Village Apartments, 2744 Melrose Ave NW
3:00 – 4:00 pm: Indian Village Head Start, 1916 Wise Ave SE
4:30 – 5:30 pm: Carilion Riverside, 3 Riverside Circle SW
3:00 – 4:00 pm : Raleigh Court Head Start, 2202 Grandin Rd. SW
To learn more about the L.E.A.P. organization, visit their website here.