Sponsored by the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, the Corner Market will soon be serving Oakman on a monthly basis. The market is housed in a traveling trailer that is stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, canned goods, boxed items, frozen meats, eggs, dairy products and more. It is designed for consumers to walk through and purchase items in a climate controlled space.
Dakota Rhodes, healthy food access coordinator for the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, explained to community members how the program works and answered questions at the Oakman Senior Center Thursday morning.
"Everything is purchased wholesale, and then we pass the wholesale price along to people," he said. "We also are able to get the food tax-free, so then we sell it tax-free also."
He added, "The idea is to bring food to communities that for whatever reasons have trouble getting certain foods, mainly fresh produce."
Rhodes said two businesses in Oakman do sell a limited variety of fresh produce, and he provided questionnaires to everyone who attended the meeting. This is to gauge what the community would love to have available for purchase at the Corner Market that they currently can't buy in Oakman.
Those at the informative session said they would love access to fresh greens and meats, particularly.
Rhodes said some of the Corner Market's produce is sourced locally, but much is also purchased through distributors.
Questions at the session Thursday were also used to identify what health conditions people have in the community and the age groups that could potentially be served by the Corner Market.
Rhodes also asked people if they would be interested in having access to general health, vision and dental screenings as part of their services. That was overwhelmingly voiced as a need, since Whatley Health Services in Oakman recently closed.
The Corner Market will visit Oakman the fourth Wednesday of every month at 8:30 a.m. in the parking lot across from town hall on Market Street. Each Corner Market visit will last 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the number of customers needing served. The market's inaugural day in Oakman will be Wednesday, July 25.
"We'll have new customer cards that you'll fill out the first time and then after that, you just write your name," Rhodes said.
Each customer will be given a number and wait their turn to enter the mobile market. Due to the size of the truck, only a limited number of people can shop at one time.
A tent will be set up for people to register to shop at the Corner Market, and SNAP/EBT, cash, credit and debit cards will be accepted forms of payment.
Oakman Town Clerk Lisa Lockhart said she will spread the word about each Corner Market visit on the town's Facebook page and in the What's Going On section of the Daily Mountain Eagle. Flyers will also be sent to local churches, and the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama will send out reminder text messages to registered shoppers the day before a scheduled market visit and an hour before business on each market day.
Lockhart stressed that the Corner Market is for everyone in the community to take advantage of, and people will be there to help customers carry purchased items to their vehicles, if needed.
"We'll help you make sure that you get across the street and also help you with your bags back to the car. There will be plenty of help every time that you come," she said.
Reusable bags will also be available for customers of the Corner Market.
Rhodes said another perk of the Corner Market is those who spend money at the market through EBT will receive money back in vouchers, up to $10.
Oakman Mayor Cory Franks said he is thankful the Corner Market will be able to provide community members with healthy options and close access to groceries.
"While two businesses in our town provide some grocery items, we don't have a stand alone grocery store in Oakman, so the Corner Market will help fill that void," Franks said. "We're thankful the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama chose to serve our community, and we hope they will for years to come."
Other locations served by the Corner Market include Quinton and two sites in Birmingham. The Walker Area Community Foundation is a sponsor of the Corner Market project.
Foundation President Paul Kennedy said the communities of Sipsey and Nauvoo were originally served by the market, but no longer are. Competition from another business in Nauvoo and a lack of customers in Sipsey resulted in the search for other communities to serve.
Kennedy said he recommended Oakman.
"I think the Corner Market is a great idea, and one of the things that we're trying to promote countywide is healthier eating, and healthier eating comes from better access to healthier foods," Kennedy said. "The Corner Market can fill that niche very nicely."
The foundation provided a grant for the recent remodel of Oakman's senior center, and Kennedy said he is happy to continue the foundation's support of the town's progressive strategy. He said while the Corner Market will be open to everyone, he believes it will be especially beneficial to the town's seniors — many of whom do not have transportation and are on fixed incomes.
"Oakman has been very interested in taking all the advice they can get. ... Anything they believe will be good for the people of Oakman, they're willing to bend over backwards to make it happen," he said. "It's just fun to work with that kind of an attitude."
Sponsors of the program other than the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama are the Daniel Foundation, Hugh Kaul Foundation, the Alabama Power Elevate Grant, the Joseph S. Bruno Foundation, Publix Super Markets Charities, the Walker Area Community Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Junior League of Birmingham Beeson Fund.
For questions about the program's services in central Alabama, call (205) 942-8911, ext. 118.