The solar-powered ORIS Mobile Food Market is tackling food insecurity in New Hampshire communities
Anyone who has seen the classic film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” knows the momentous scene in which Dick Van Dyke’s eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts finally rolls the shiny new car out of the barn after weeks of hammering, welding and tinkering. The ORIS Mobile Food Market had a similarly large reveal at ReVision Energy’s warehouse in Brentwood this May. Despite having no wings, the Mobile Market has a newly attached collection of solar panels and brings fresh groceries to New Hampshire communities facing food insecurity.
A team of ReVision volunteers, led by Master Electrician Chris Lee, spent hours mounting four solar panels (REC 375 commercial 72-cell modules) on the roof of the trailer and wiring them through the inverter to 4 lead-acid batteries that has over 10 kWh of storage. The system powers 2 fridges and 1 freezer to store fresh food. While the ORIS Mobile Market may not be quite on Chitty’s level (we haven’t tested his flight and / or boating ability), his ability to tackle food insecurity in New Hampshire has improved dramatically as a result of this work.
Last year, the Mobile Market, run by the Manchester-based Organization for the Success of Refugees and Immigrants (ORIS), drove weekly to Manchester and Concord bringing local residents fresh fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be inaccessible. Products purchased from local New Hampshire farms are sold to residents through another ORIS program called Granite State Market Match (GSMM). This program doubles the value of EBT / Snap Credits when used on local products, benefiting both residents who buy the products and local producers who sell their products through the program.
The mobile market goes to where people live and increases accessibility for people without means of transport. This year, thanks to solar-powered cooling, the Mobile Market is expanding its route to Nashua and expanding its range.
“I know our customers will be thrilled to have all these items available that we have never had before,” said Laurel Witri, Program Manager at ORIS, “they always ask us if we have cheese, milk and ice cream. “She explained that the mobile market, which sells fruit and vegetables, is great, but” it doesn’t necessarily save you a trip to the grocery store if you don’t get everything. “
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The Mobile Market and GSMM are just two of ORIS ‘programs that range from youth education to employment services, but they work in tandem with ORIS’ flagship program, Fresh Start Farms. Currently made up of 23 farmers speaking 13 different languages, Fresh Start Farms is a collective of refugees and immigrants who sell their products at local farmers markets and CSAs.
Fresh Start’s coordinator, Jameson Small, has worked with ReVision Energy on a variety of projects over the years. When the Mobile Market wanted to add solar power to its offering, they turned to ReVision and Chris Lee took over the project.
“When the ORIS project concept was presented to me last spring, I immediately jumped on it because you are doing for the world,” said Chris. “Not only do they employ people who typically find it difficult to make the transition to living in this country, they also offer healthy foods in places where people may struggle to find such food options. Realizing this project was a small way I could help them improve the lives of many people. “
Other ReVision volunteers included solar installer Eric Zulaski, fleet manager Ken McMaster and his wife Laura, and warehouse assistant Josh Finnochio.
“I’m very proud to have worked on the ORIS trailer over the past few weekends,” said Chris. “It turned out to be a good challenge and it was definitely worth the effort.”
The solar powered addition to the Mobile Market will benefit the program, its partners, and the communities it serves. The increased sustainability of the vehicle is a bonus that Laurel Witri knows customers will appreciate. “This is a real response to what we got from our customers,” she explains. “I know they will be happy to see the solar panels, and making our program greener and more sustainable is a really great thing to expand the reach of our food access. We are so grateful to Chris and the team and are very happy to be driving the solar panels around! “