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Real Food Farm: A Pop-Up, Mobile Farmer's Market

A large portion of Baltimore city residents live in a "food desert." Grocery stores aren’t close by. Many people do not have a car and cannot...

A large portion of Baltimore city residents live in a "food desert." Grocery stores aren’t close by. Many people do not have a car and cannot easily reach a store with fresh fruits or vegetables.

In the middle of this food desert, however, is Real Food Farm, an urban agricultural initiative located on six acres of land in Clifton Park, a Baltimore city park surrounded by roughly 35,000 inner city residents.

Through this realization, our initial design challenge was born: How do we connect these people living around the park with limited access to fresh, healthy foods to the Farm?

The Center for Design Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), a multi-disciplinary studio engaging students and outside partners in socially conscious projects, worked with Real Food Farm to research and design a way to increase food access.


Real Food Farm was the perfect initiative to partner with because of our shared values and vision in the viability of urban agriculture. Launched in October 2009, Real Food Farm works toward a just and sustainable food system in Northeast Baltimore.

After weeks of research, community engagement, and hands-on experience at the Farm, we came to the consensus that it would be much more effective to take the Farm to the people as opposed to expecting the people to come to the farm and that’s where the idea of the Mobile Market originated.

The concept transforms an old newspaper delivery truck into a pop-up mobile and scalable food market. Think of it like an ice cream truck that sells fruits and vegetables. We map out market stops where we can go to local schools at dismissal time, office buildings in the area, and also senior centers.

Alongside the Mobile Market, design students worked on interdisciplinary teams to provide Real Food Farm with a whole new visual identity, branding and communications package to get the farm’s message out to the community.

This was a scenario where we had all of ideas pieced together, but we didn’t really didn’t have the implementation resources to produce it. Through Sappi’s Ideas that Matter grant, we were able to take our design idea and actually make it happen. We received $15,000 as a part of the grant to complete the design elements of the truck and produce education & outreach materials. This included informational brochures, educational postcards, bumper stickers, reusable market bags, and t-shirts for volunteer farmers. The truck was also designed with informational panels, maps, and branded produce baskets and food labels.

There has been a real awakening about connecting food with health. Since the Mobile Market deployed, its services have expanded based on the needs of the community. For example, community members expressed an interest home food delivery, and the Mobile Market has now added this service. There is also now a Real Food Farm App, developed by Aisle Won, a nutrition literacy program that combines mobile technology with community-supported agriculture to help grocery shoppers make better healthcare decisions. It has been an amazing experience to really see the project come to life and help Real Food Farm get fresh produce out to the people.

Images courtesy of Center for Design Practice

Have your own idea for a nonprofit design project? Apply for funding from Sappi's Ideas that Matter program.

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