MADISON, Wis. — Fresh Madison Market, a one-store operator that opened in January on the University of Wisconsin campus in the downtown part of this city, has started offering free bus rides to its store to residents of the Allied Drive neighborhood on the south side, which lacks a local supermarket.
Partnering with RiteWay bus rentals, Fresh Madison Market is offering free rides on Tuesday from the Allied Wellness Center and on Friday from the Head Start office. Residents will have an hour at the store to shop before being returned by bus to their neighborhood. The store, which does home delivery of online orders, will deliver shoppers' purchases to their homes in the Allied Drive area.
“I'm very hopeful that by offering the Allied Drive neighborhood a chance to get healthy, fresh products and make meals in their homes, it will help them to be more aware of their food choices,” said Jeff Maurer, owner of Fresh Madison Market, in a statement. “Every family deserves access to good, fresh food at reasonable prices.”
The Allied Drive neighborhood had been supported by a Cub Foods outlet, which closed in March 2009. Since then, the area's residents, many of whom do not own cars, have turned to Walgreens, McDonald's and other fast-food alternatives. One resident told Maurer he wished the area residents had better access to Fresh Madison Market, prompting Maurer to take action. Maurer has also provided food to the Allied Drive neighborhood association meeting, where he gained an understanding of the inadequate dietary choices available to neighborhood children.
Providing free bus transportation is one of several approaches being taken by food retailers to address the issue of “food deserts” — lower-income neighborhoods where access to affordable, quality and nutritious foods is limited. Other approaches include online grocery projects (in Baltimore and Chicago), a produce delivery truck (Syracuse, N.Y.), bolstering existing independent stores in food deserts (Detroit), and opening new stores in food deserts with state support.