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How MARTA is stepping up to fight Atlanta’s ‘food desert’ problem

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Beginning this week, fresh produce is another reason to use mass transit

A MARTA train at Atlanta’s King Memorial Station.
Why not grab some apples and bananas on your ride home?
Curbed Atlanta

Don’t be surprised if your local MARTA station looks a bit like a farmers market in coming months; that’s just the transit agency’s way of helping people access fresh food.

In 2015, MARTA launched the Fresh MARTA Market program, an effort to help connect people in food deserts—places without a grocery store within a mile—to healthy eats.

Last year, the most successful markets offered more than 46,000 pounds of fresh produce to rail station patrons and passersby.

Starting this week, people can swing by the Bankhead, College Park, Five Points, Hamilton E. Holmes, and West End transit transit stops—areas with limited fresh food access—to shop for produce.

A 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 36 percent of Atlanta was classified as food desert, and roughly 25 percent of Atlantans live at least a half-mile from the nearest grocer or farmers market.

Each market accepts cash and cards, as well as food stamps. SNAP benefits will also be doubled, “meaning $5 swiped is $10 to spend,” according to a MARTA press release.

But MARTA’s isn’t the only initiative happening in Atlanta that helps people in food deserts access healthy food.

Ride-hailing company Lyft recently launched a program that allows families in food deserts to get rides to grocery stores and farmers markets for as little as $2 per trip.

The six-month program will provide four round-trips per month to 300 eligible families.

It’s unclear if Lyft’s subsidized rides can be used to access the Fresh MARTA Markets.

From now until December, people can cruise by one of the five MARTA stations on certain days to do some shopping. The details:

West End Station – Tuesdays

  • April 23 to December 3
  • 680 Lee Street SW, Atlanta
  • 3 to 7 p.m.

H.E. Holmes Station – Wednesdays

  • May 1 to December 4 (closed November 27)
  • 70 Hamilton E Holmes Drive NW, Atlanta
  • 3 to 7 p.m.

Bankhead Station – Wednesdays

  • May 8 to December 4 (closed November 27)
  • 1335 Donald Hollowell Parkway, Atlanta
  • 3 to 7 p.m.

College Park Station – Thursdays

  • May 2 to December 5 (closed July 4, November 28)
  • 3800 Main Street, College Park
  • 3 to 7 p.m.

Five Points Station – Fridays

  • April 26 – December 6 (closed November 29)
  • 30 Alabama Street SW, Atlanta
  • 3 to 7 p.m.