Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mobile Produce Market Operations: Adaptations, Barriers, and Future Directions for Increasing Food Access

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Sep 10;19(18):11390. doi: 10.3390/ijerph191811390.


Background: Mobile produce markets were increasingly recognized as an effective and accepted approach to improving access to fruits and vegetables in lower-income and at-risk communities during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. This study provides insights into how mobile market operations were impacted by, and evolved in response to, challenges posed by the pandemic.

Methods: A survey evaluating impacts of the pandemic on mobile markets was distributed to a database of mobile market operators in the United States. Respondents were asked to describe impacts to their mobile market's operations, and what adaptations were needed to continue to effectively serve their communities during 2020.

Results: Surveys representing 48 unique mobile markets were collected from March to July 2021. Of the respondents, 63% reported an increase in demand for mobile market services from community members. Furthermore, 65% increased the amount of produce they distributed in 2020 as compared to 2019, often through adopting low or no-cost models or participating in pandemic government programs.

Discussion: Emergency adaptations employed by mobile markets can inform long-term operational modifications for not only mobile markets, but also other food access programs, beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19 response; food access; food retail; mobile produce market.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Diet
  • Food Supply*
  • Fruit
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Poverty
  • United States
  • Vegetables