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WRTA, Second Harvest Food Bank Join to Address Food Deserts

WRTA and Second Harvest Food Bank are teaming up to provide Mahoning and Trumbull County residents who live in “food deserts” an easy way to address the problem of limited access to quality food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as an urban area in which at least 500 people (or 33% of the population) live more than one mile from the nearest large grocery store — or a rural area with at least 500 people (or 33% of the population) living more than 10 miles from the nearest large grocery store.

The consequences for those living within food deserts are significant. Since they are unable to easily get to a store that sells fresh meats and produce, the diets of families in these areas are adversely affected because they must rely on convenience stores and fast food for much of what they eat.

According to Mike Iberis, Executive Director of Second Harvest Food Bank, there are many urban and rural areas in Mahoning and Trumbull County that can be identified as food deserts. “But we’re fortunate in our area to have WRTA, a service that covers so much ground and offers so many options to those looking for quality food to feed their families,” said Iberis.

WRTA has several ways to transport those living in food deserts to grocery stores that offer the kind of quality food they can’t otherwise get. “No matter where you live in Mahoning or Trumbull County,” says WRTA Executive Director Dean Harris, “there’s a WRTA bus that can get you to the store.”

Harris outlined several WRTA options:

  • In the greater Youngstown area and the City of Warren, many supermarkets are located along routes served by WRTA Fixed Route buses. If the bus that passes through a food desert doesn’t lead directly to a supermarket, riders have the option of taking that bus to either Federal Station in downtown Youngstown or the junction point at High Street and North Park Avenue in downtown Warren and transferring to another bus that does travel to a supermarket.
  • Residents who live within the area covered by WRTA’s Fixed Route bus service but are unable to ride a Fixed Route bus due to age or disability can take advantage of WRTA’s ADA All-Access service. These small buses will pick qualifying residents up at their homes and transport them to any location served by WRTA Fixed Route buses. Eligibility requirements apply, and rides both to and from a destination must be scheduled in advance.
  • Those who live elsewhere in Mahoning or Trumbull County, beyond areas served by WRTA Fixed Route buses, can use another scheduled service, Countywide. This door-to-door service will also pick up residents at their homes and transport them anywhere within their respective counties. Again, riders must register for this service and schedule trips in advance.

Harris emphasized that rides on all WRTA buses are free through December 31, 2020.

Maps and schedules are available on the WRTA website along with additional information about all WRTA services. The website also offers an Online Trip Planner for those who would like to take a Fixed Route bus to and from a specific destination. Online Trip Planning is also available on the myStop Mobile smartphone app, which is available for iPhone and Android.

More information about all WRTA services is available by calling (330) 744-8431.

“We are working with Second Harvest Food Bank’s 140 partner agencies in Mahoning and Trumbull counties to inform residents about the services offered by WRTA to access full-line grocery stores,” said Iberis.

“While many of our riders are already using WRTA to get to the store and back,” Harris added, “we’re grateful to Second Harvest for helping to get the word out to those who aren’t aware of how WRTA can help them and their families.”