Award of Excellence: Affordable Grocery Delivery Program
The Saint Paul Public Housing Agency (PHA) wins a 2017 Award of Excellence in Client and Resident Services for providing their residents with easy access to fresh and healthy food options. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.
Over the years, the residents of the Saint Paul Public Housing Agency (PHA) lost access to affordable and healthy food options when grocery stores began leaving their community. Residents had to travel farther or pool time and resources with neighbors to purchase fresh groceries. Saint Paul was becoming a food desert, served only by convenience stores that stocked unhealthy foods with low nutritional value instead of grocery stores filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, and healthy whole foods. To make matter’s worse, PHA’s partner organizations soon began to eliminate programs that transported residents to grocery stores. Food donations helped somewhat, but they were of inconsistent quality and nutritional benefit.
As a solution, PHA partnered with the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation to provide an affordable grocery delivery service that addressed the food needs of their residents. The Wilder Foundation's Twin Cities Mobile Market () Program is a mobile grocery store made out a refurbished Metro Transit bus that brings affordable and healthy food to seven PHA locations each week and charges below market rates. All members of the community are encouraged to visit the market when it comes to their area. Customers are not required to show any proof of income before they begin grocery shopping, and the TCMM accepts SNAP-EBT, cash, credit, and debit cards.
Since Saint Paul is a culturally diverse area, PHA and TCMM staff worked with residents and food distributors to fulfill requests for foods that meet various dietary and culturally needs whenever possible. Residents with limited mobility who might have difficulty boarding the mobile grocery store were able to submit grocery lists to TCMM staff for fulfillment.
Since December 2014, over 800 PHA residents have used the TCMM for the first time, and the program has logged more than 7,700 transactions from both new and repeat customers. The TCMM is subsidized through grants and donations, in addition to food sales, and there is no cost to the PHA for participating in the program. Residents do not pay additional fees for purchasing items through the TCMM.
During a visit to a PHA site, a staff member overheard a resident expressing her appreciation for the weekly TCMM visits because her "cabinets were bare and her children were out of town." Moments like these motivate PHA staff to challenge themselves to ensure that their residents have access to resources that can help them to meet their basic needs.