Simplified: The City of Sioux Falls is poised to award a $250,000 Eat Well Sioux Falls grant to Sioux Falls Thrive to create a mobile food market to make groceries more accessible in food deserts around town.

Why it matters

  • It's been a year since the city first announced plans to spend up to $400,000 in one-time funding for this Eat Well Sioux Falls grant, and after Wednesday's announcement of the mobile market, Public Health Director Charles Chima said they will no longer be taking applications for these funds.
  • The mobile market will be a vehicle – likely a decommissioned bus – that's stocked with healthy food and driven to an area of town that's not being served by a neighborhood grocery store.
  • The idea of the program is to create a dignified way for people to have access to purchasing groceries, said Michelle Erpenbach, president of Sioux Falls Thrive.
"This is not a hand out," Erpenbach said. "This isn't a freebie, and it really is a place that we all feel like customers."

Tell me more about the need

More than 24,000 people in Sioux Falls live more than one mile from a grocery store, according to a study released last summer by the Augustana Research Institute.

  • That makes it hard, if not impossible, to access healthy food for people who don't have access to a car.
“The opportunity to get healthy foods shouldn’t depend on our education, income, or where we live," Chima said. "Every member of our community deserves access to affordable and healthy foods, and that’s why this grant is so important."

The market will start its focus in the area of Cliff Avenue and Benson Road, and the goal is to eventually create a regular rotation of stops throughout the week.

"We see a potentially high impact in that area," Erpenbach said, adding that there are 2,000 occupied housing units and approximately 6,000 people.

How will the mobile market work?

The mobile market will address the transportation barrier many face in food access by bringing the grocery store to those areas that don't have one close by.

It will also address the need for affordability by sourcing some of its food from reclaimed grocery items.

  • Those items will have a higher profit margin, and those profits will be used to subsidize more costly items, Erpenbach said.

It's worth noting again that the mobile market is selling the groceries, and while affordability is a priority, the food isn't structured to be a hand-out.

  • That said, the market will accept SNAP benefits, and it may also have resources available to help eligible people get signed up for SNAP if they haven't already.

Which organizations are partnering to make this happen?

The idea for the mobile market came out of a coalition led by Sioux Falls Thrive and including the following groups:

  • Fair Market
  • First United Methodist Church
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • Church on the Street
  • Augustana Research Institute
  • Active Generations
  • Sioux Falls Food Co+op
  • Feeding South Dakota,
  • and Thrive's Food Security Action Team.

What happens next?

The City Council still needs to approve the contract to formally award the grant money to Sioux Falls Thrive.

  • That's expected to happen during the next council meeting on May 2.

Once approved, the grant money will be used to purchase a vehicle and help get the mobile market launched ideally by the fall, Erpenbach said.

  • The grant will then fund an 18-month pilot program, at which time the mobile market should be self-sustaining.

In the early stages, the mobile market will focus on building relationships and trying to get a sense of what "healthy" means to the people who will be shopping in the market, Erpenbach added.

"This is a place where the community has an opportunity to come together and nurture neighborhood relationships," she said.

How can I support the mobile market?

Get in touch with Sioux Falls Thrive to learn more about future volunteer opportunities. Email