In the parking lot of the Southern Nevada Health District building on South Decatur Boulevard, a display of plump roma tomatoes, peaches, lemons and eggplants draw the attention of folks wandering out of the community health clinic on a Wednesday morning.
The Veggie Buck Truck has been operating in Valley communities for more than six years, offering produce at, arguably, the cheapest price in town. In fall 2021, it entered into a partnership with SNHD’s Office of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in an effort to increase access to low-cost produce.
“Eating enough fruits and vegetables is an important part of managing diabetes and heart disease,” says Lisa Archie, community health worker for SNHD. She’s stationed at a table not far from the produce, greeting people and inviting them to take literature in English and Spanish, about the diseases “more prevalent among African-Americans and Latinos,” she adds.
The Veggie Buck Truck
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.—and in Nevada—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accounting for nearly 700,000 deaths per year nationwide.
According to a 2021 fact sheet from the American Diabetes Association, more than one in 10 Nevada adults have diabetes.
And while diabetes disproportionately impacts Black and Latino Americans, Native Americans actually have the highest rate of diagnosis.
More than 120,000 Southern Nevadans live in “food deserts,” or neighborhoods defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a low-income census tract in which a substantial number of residents are “food insecure,” meaning they do not have easy or consistent access to a supermarket or grocery store.
That’s where the pop-up farmers market comes in. At the five public markets since September, produce went for just $1 per bundle or pound and was available until supplies ran out. The final 2022 market is scheduled for November 3 at SNHD’s South Decatur clinic.
“The point is to bring it to the people,” founder Rosalind Brooks says. The pop-ups typically generate around 80 to 100 transactions, with about half those customers paying with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
The mobile market and Health District also have partnered with the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission to host markets at the Bonneville Transit Center Downtown. Brooks says, at a market hosted there on October 4, “The line wrapped around the building, and we ran out of produce.”
The mobile markets operate in neighborhoods with high rates of food insecurity. According to a 2018 Three Square Food Bank map measuring those statistics across the Las Vegas Valley, the 89101 ZIP code where the transit center is located has the third-highest food insecurity rate Valleywide. More than 20%, or one in five residents there, don’t have easy or consistent access to healthy foods.
The adjacent 89106 ZIP code, known as the Historic Westside, had the highest rate in the Valley, with more than one in four residents experiencing food insecurity. Since 2018, the average food insecurity rate across Clark County rose from nearly 13% to almost 15% in 2022, according to Three Square.
The nonprofit food bank, which serves Clark County and three rural counties in Southern Nevada, aims to lower those rates with programs tailored to populations with high rates of food insecurity. Three Square serves about 10,000 seniors and 56,000 children per month.
“One in seven households has a food insecure person who lives there,” says Lisa Segler, director of strategic initiatives for Three Square. “That’s more than 341,000 people and includes more than 130,000 kids.” Rates among children and seniors are higher, with one in four experiencing food insecurity, she adds.
In addition to administering federal food assistance, Three Square provides home deliveries for 4,000 seniors per month and community meals. Meals for qualifying children are available through programs like BackPack for Kids, which provides single-serving, ready-to-eat meals to children who might otherwise go without food during weekends or breaks.
Offering options that cut out the need for transportation—and, in the case of the kids’ meals, the need for using knives or cooking—helps vulnerable populations get vital nutrition.
“Across the board, transportation and cash are the two largest barriers to accessing food on a consistent basis,” Segler says, adding that Three Square has partnered with a rideshare company to provide free transportation to grocery stores for seniors.
“With seniors, isolation is so big, and it’s so detrimental to their health,” Segler says. “If we can get you out of your house, I want you to get out of your house and go to a pantry or one of our grocery locations and chat with people.”
Ultimately, the goal is to establish consistent access to healthy foods, which can help lower risks of diabetes and heart disease, studies show.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the “problem” for most food-insecure Americans is not that they’re getting too few calories. Rather, food insecure Americans are getting too much of the “wrong kind” of calories, which can led to obesity and a higher rate of chronic diseases.
“Usually, the cheapest and most readily available foods (fatty, fried takeout, high-sodium prepared meals, candy and soft drinks) provide plenty of calories,” the association’s website reads, “but they contribute to or make it hard to properly manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, kidney disease and diabetes.”
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Shannon Miller joined Las Vegas Weekly in early 2022 as a staff writer. Since 2016, she has gathered a smorgasbord …


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