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The Veggie Van: Customer characteristics, fruit and vegetable consumption, and barriers to healthy eating among shoppers at a mobile farmers market in the United States

Ylitalo, Kelly R., During, Christina, Thomas, Katherine, Ezell, Kelly, Lillard, Patrick, Scott, Joel
Appetite 2019 v.133 pp. 279-285
consumer behavior, consumers (people), farmers' markets, females, food purchasing, fruits, health information, healthy diet, surveys, transportation, vegetable consumption, vegetables, United States
Mobile farmers markets may improve local food environments by increasing access to healthy food, yet research is limited. The purpose of this study was to describe customer characteristics and barriers to healthy eating among customers at a mobile farmers market called the Veggie Van.In 2016, a customer intercept design was used to survey English-speaking Veggie Van customers (n = 192; 70.5% survey response rate) aged ≥18 years on sociodemographic and health characteristics, normal daily consumption of fruit and vegetables (F/V) using the Health Information National Trends Survey screener, food acquisition and purchasing habits, and potential barriers to healthy eating. We compared customers to service area neighborhood residents. Within customers, we compared first-time and repeat customers, and those with low and high F/V consumption.Veggie Van customers were more likely to identify as non-Hispanic white and have a bachelor's degree than neighborhood residents. Participants were mostly female (76.0%) and non-Hispanic white (53.7%). Approximately half (45.0%) were first-time customers and many (41.7%) did not meet F/V consumption recommendations. In the total sample, cost was the most frequently reported barrier to healthy eating. Among repeat customers, those with low F/V consumption were more likely to report cost as a barrier than those with high F/V consumption (p = 0.02). Only 8.9% reported no transportation to buy healthy food.Veggie Van customers may not represent neighborhood residents. Although few participants met F/V recommendations, most had transportation to buy healthy food. Mobile markets have lower overhead costs and greater flexibility than traditional stores and can address geo-spatial barriers to food access, but should ensure that they are serving target customers.