Bringing Healthy Choices to Food Deserts

Great advice about healthy eating does people no good unless they have easy access to food that is both nutritious and affordable. Too many urban neighborhoods are “food deserts,” where the only groceries are in corner stores with limited stock, few if any fresh foods, and high prices. 

Domenica Foundation is working with longtime partner Virtua Health to bring healthy food right into people’s neighborhoods.

In October 2020, Virtua Health launched the Eat Well mobile grocery store to bring fresh produce and other healthy food choices into low-income neighborhoods in South Jersey. 

From the outside, the mobile grocery store looks a lot like a city bus—because that’s what it was before NJ Transit donated it to be re-outfitted as a grocery store. Virtua Health set up the bus to provide “everything a person needs to have a dignified shopping experience,” according to April Schetler, AVP of Community Health Engagement at Virtua.

The Eat Well mobile grocery store is keeping a regular weekly schedule in communities throughout Camden and Burlington counties, so that people can count on getting their fruit and vegetables every week. 

At the launch event, Domenica Foundation founder Pepe Piperno said, “We’ve made a commitment to the people of Camden and Burlington counties. On our watch, people won’t have to worry about where they’ll get their food. We’ll come to them.”

Virtua Health demonstrated its dedication to community health by adding services to make shopping as safe as possible during the pandemic. Shoppers can order online and pick up their order outside the bus-grocery. Those who don’t have the necessary tech at home can use the Eat Well “concierge service”: A staff member brings them a tablet so they can order while they stay outside, and staffers inside pack their order and bring it out.

See our video grantee spotlight on Virtua Health, featuring the launch of the mobile grocery store.

The Domenica Foundation sponsors Virtua Health’s effort to bring healthy foods to low-income neighborhoods.
As a project sponsor, Pepe Piperno spoke on behalf of the Domenica Foundation at the launch event in October 2020.