Background Mobile markets are an increasingly popular method for providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables (F/V) in underserved communities; however, evaluation of these programs is limited, as are descriptions of their development, study designs, and needs of the populations they serve.
Objective Our aim was to describe the development and theoretical basis for Veggie Van (VV), a mobile produce market intervention, the study design for the VV evaluation, and baseline characteristics of the study population.
Design The protocol and sample for a cluster-randomized controlled trial with 12 sites are described.
Participants/setting Community partner organizations in the Triangle region of North Carolina that primarily served lower-income families or were located in areas that had limited access to fresh produce were recruited. Eligible individuals at each site (older than 18 years of age, self-identified as the main shoppers for their household, and expressed interest in using a mobile market) were targeted for enrollment. A total of 201 participants at 12 sites participated in the VV program and evaluation, which was implemented from November 2013 to March 2016.
Main outcome measures Change in F/V intake (cups/day), derived from self-reported responses to the National Cancer Institute F/V screener, was the main outcome measure.
Statistical analyses performed We performed a descriptive analysis of baseline sample characteristics.
Results Mean reported F/V intake was 3.4 cups/day. Participants reported generally having some access to fresh F/V, and 57.7% agreed they could afford enough F/V to feed their family. The most frequently cited barriers were cost (55.7%) and time to prepare F/V (20.4%). Self-efficacy was lowest for buying more F/V than usual and trying new vegetables.
Conclusions By addressing cost and convenience and building skills for purchasing and preparing F/V, the VV has the potential to improve F/V consumption in underserved communities.