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Sprout launches crowdfunding campaign for mobile market

This drawing by Ashley Martel of Widseth Smith Nolting shows the vision of the Sprout Mobile Market, the subject of a crowdfunding campaign through the end of June. Submitted illustration

LITTLE FALLS—A social crowdfunding campaign for the Sprout Mobile Market launched Friday, June 1, through a Minnesota-based online platform, MNstarter.com.

The Mobile Market vision is to bring food out of the grocery aisles and on the road to areas lacking access to nutritious foods.

Since 2012, Sprout Food Hub has been growing relationships with food producers in the central Minnesota region with a focus on creating equitable food distribution models, a news release stated. The goal of the Mobile Market is to be an avenue to put those fresh, local foods en route to rural community members with barriers to access.

Partnerships with health care facilities is helping Sprout close the missing meal gap with the Prescription Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, program, Sprout reported. The Mobile Market will continue to extend food access impact to senior living facilities, low- and middle-income housing, by setting up regularly scheduled "pop-ups" where fresh, nutritious food will be made available for purchase.

"The Mobile Market model is not new. Cities around the country are using this infrastructure to connect fresh foods to low access areas," stated Arlene Jones, Sprout director, in the release. "While Mobile Markets are seen more often in urban areas, the model shows great potential in our rural region to fill a high need for fresh foods, without the large investment of a brick-and-mortar storefront."

While the Sprout Mobile Market will be stocked with fresh local produce, the trailer will include refrigeration and freezer to stock other local products like meat, dairy products, frozen berries and more. The refrigeration will also keep the produce cool during trips. Sprout anticipates the Mobile Market will make multiple routes combined with a "backhauling" effort, which will procure local foods on the way back to the Sprout facility. "Backhauling will increase the efficiency of each trip in addition to increasing the variety, quantity and sources of local food for all of Sprout's local food buyers—restaurants, co-ops, schools, hospitals and CSA customers," the release stated.

The social crowdfunding campaign goal is $25,000, which would help Sprout purchase and outfit a trailer with a refrigerator and freezer, shelving, handwashing sinks and other necessary equipment for the safe handling of food. Models of the trailer design can be seen at www.sproutmn.com/mobilemarket and were ​produced by Ashley Martel of Widseth Smith Nolting in Baxter.

Similar to a Kickstarter campaign, Sprout is offering rewards for contributors donating to the Mobile Market campaign. Rewards include items like a limited edition drawing of the Mobile Market by local artist Rachael Koppendrayer or tickets to a cooking class at Sprout. All rewards can be viewed at https://app.mnstarter.com/campaign/1.

Sprout is a federally recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so all contributions are tax deductible, less the cost of the reward. Supporters of this work may also contact the Sprout team at 320-412-3081 to learn about becoming a matching donor.

While Sprout local food is central to the Mobile Market objective, Sprout reported it intends the Mobile Market to also connect community through art and culture. As envisioned in Martel's designs, the Mobile Market will be a lively spot for community members to gather for their groceries, as well as activities cultivating creativity like cooking demonstrations, nutrition education and community art experiences.

"In its essence, the Mobile Market will be an extension of the Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace," Jones stated in the release. "The excitement of sharing in a community built out of agricultural tradition and family heritage is something we're trying to bring to the forefront, and the Mobile Market will take those community connections on the road."

The Mobile Market is one of three local social crowdfunding campaigns through MNstarter with a deadline of June 30 to hit a financial goal. The other two campaigns are for Kids Against Hunger Brainerd Lakes Area, https://app.mnstarter.com/campaign/6, and Brainerd Restoration, https://app.mnstarter.com/campaign/10.

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