The new Link Market food kiosks at the North Hanley and Wellston Transit Centers are now open for business, and transit riders and nearby residents can purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy food staples at these transit locations.
The Link Market kiosks are open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and accept cash, credit and EBT payments.
The Link Market food kiosk pilot program is the result of a partnership with the Bi-State Development Research Institute, a non-profit enterprise of Bi-State Development, and the Missouri Foundation for Health, which is funding the program through a nearly $584,000 grant. Bi-State Development, Metro transit and the Missouri Foundation for Health held a ribbon-cutting celebration earlier this fall at the North Hanley Transit Center to introduce the Link Market program to the St. Louis region.
“By partnering with the Missouri Foundation for Health, we are able to take advantage of the region’s transit assets to provide a valuable and much needed resource to address food insecurity,” said John Wagner, Director of the Bi-State Development Research Institute. “This is a win-win for the region.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Access Resource Atlas identifies many areas in the St. Louis region, particularly in North St. Louis County, as food desert locations where there is a lack of access to fresh, healthy foods. A significant number of residents of North St. Louis County live more than a mile from the nearest grocery store, which is an even bigger issue for individuals and families who do not own or have access to an automobile.
“Twenty-seven percent of St. Louis County residents live in a food desert, meaning they do not have easy access to a grocery store,” said Rhonda Smythe, Program Officer with the Missouri Foundation for Health. “We are excited to partner with Bi-State Development on the Link Market food kiosk initiative. It uses innovation to improve access to healthy foods and support local farmers, and is overall a great fit for our organization.”
By placing the Link Market food kiosks at the North Hanley and Wellston Transit Centers, thousands of transit riders will be able to conveniently access the kiosks as part of their regular commutes.
“Coupling these food kiosks with major transit centers produces an enormous benefit for the community,” said Ray Friem, Executive Director of Metro Transit. “When you consider all of the neighborhoods connected to our transit centers by MetroLink and MetroBus, suddenly thousands of residents and transit riders from all across the region will have access to healthier food options.”
The Link Market program is partnering with local farmers and community gardens to offer locally sourced food grown within a 100-mile radius of St. Louis. The program has also partnered with the St. Louis Agency on Employment (SLATE) to fill full and part-time Link Market positions, and with the St. Louis Area Foodbank, which is providing space for food storage and administrative functions, and refrigeration. The St. Louis Area Foodbank has promised that unused food will not go to waste.
“Link Market is more than a grocery store – our food has a mission,” said Jeremy Goss, Operator of the Link Market food kiosks. “Unfortunately, too many neighborhoods and too many families don’t have access to healthy, affordable food. The Link Market will change that, and we can’t wait to get started.”
As part of the program, the Bi-State Development Research Institute is also partnering with the University of Missouri Extension to provide nutrition education to Link Market customers and Metro transit riders. Nutrition specialists at the University of Missouri Extension will provide education sessions twice a month at the Wellston and North Hanley Transit Centers to support the food kiosk program. Customers will be able to ask questions and learn more about the importance of proper nutrition and how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diets while on a budget.