New bus service hopes to cross food deserts

BALTIMORE - It's all about access.

Suburbanites just hop in the car and a cornucopia of choice is theirs.

In some parts of Baltimore City, a trip to the market is two or more busses, miles of walking with heavy bags or a cab fare that takes away some of the buying power and choices.

It is about access, and some parts of the city have none.

"They define food deserts by the distance that people have to walk to get to the supermarket and that distance could be as short as half a mile but they factor in poverty levels and vehicle ownership which is low in many neighborhoods in Baltimore."  Market Owner Rob Santoni, Jr. says.

Santoni says the answer is not putting a market on every corner, but making it easier to get to the ones you have.

Today the market with grants from Johns Hopkins, and Associated Black Charities started a new free bus service that will serve different senior housing and East Baltimore neighborhood stops.

The first stop of the program; a senior high rise on North Washington Street.

Ten people made this inaugural trip, just one today, but they hope to average at least three trips a day if demand warrants.

The chance to get into the market will allow people to spend more on things like fresh produce, canned goods or fragile eggs that would be difficult to manage on public transportation.

They'll also have more buying power.

"It makes it more, oh lord this is a blessing yes it is I can sit back and relax okay." Passenger Josie Goddard says.          

Santoni says they have the capacity to shuttle several hundred people to the market weekly.

He hopes to expand the service to three busses over the next 24 months.

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