Grocery shuttle helping north side residents fill fresh food void

Grocery shuttle helping north side residents fill fresh food void

A new grocery shuttle is helping people living on Madison’s north side get access to fresh food and groceries after the closing of Pierce’s Northside Market on Sherman Avenue earlier this year left many low-income residents without a means to get these items.

The “North Side Grocery Shuttle” runs Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings. It takes residents of Kennedy Heights, Vera Court, Brentwood Village, Northport Apartments and Packer Townhouses to Woodman’s East and the Willy Street Co-Op.

The grocery shuttle costs passengers $2 round-trip.

“Most people don’t have rides, don’t have cars,” Pat Butler, who is on the board of directors of the Kennedy Heights Community Center, said. “They’re strictly dependent on walking to the grocery store.”

Butler said the $2 shuttle ride is a huge time and cost-saver for residents, who had to rely on a slow city bus journey or a $12-13 taxi ride to get them to a full-service grocery store after Pierce’s closed.

“How could you have food when you spend all your money on trying to get there?” Butler said. “Without a grocery store in your community, it is just hard. It’s hard, it’s very hard for everyone.”

One of those residents is Darlene Jabang.

Jabang lives in the Kennedy Heights neighborhood and has diabetes and arthritis. She walks with a cane and had been taking those bus and taxi rides to get access to the fresh, healthy food she needs due to her medical conditions; she now uses the grocery shuttle to go to Woodman’s.

“I have to watch what I eat, what time I eat it,” Jabang said. “Instead of buying a doughnut, I can buy fruit.”

Jabang doesn’t make a lot of money, so she said the shuttle helps her stretch her dollar.

“That’s 12 or 13 more dollars I can spend for food,” Jabang said.

As the prevalence of food deserts comes to light, Butler said it’s important for a low-income community to have access to fresh groceries.

“You need a grocery store where you can fully shop to get everything that you need on a daily basis to hit the food groups,” Butler said. “You’ve got to have something like that, you’ve got to have vegetables (and) fruits.”

Some north side residents shopped for basics at a nearby Walgreens after Pierce’s closed. But Butler said they weren’t able to get much more than that.

“Walgreens sells milk, bread and cereal and different things that people can use,” Butler said. “But they don’t have meat products, they don’t have things that people can use on a daily basis.”

The shuttle started running Wednesday and is set to finish operations in late August or early September, because a more permanent grocery option is on the way for the north side.

Willy Street Co-Op is expected to open a north side location in late August, giving residents the option to purchase fresh food near their neighborhoods.

The Northside Grocery Shuttle is a program of the Northside Planning Council and the Kennedy Heights Community Center, with funding provided by the City of Madison Food Policy Council, Willy Street Co-op and Woodman’s Food Market, organizers said.

Click here to view the schedule, including stops and pickup times, for the North Side Grocery Shuttle.