Bringing greater food security through markets in schools

It’s well documented that a lack of access to healthy food can lead to difficulty concentrating, increased behavioral issues or decreased academic performance for children. And in food deserts, where there’s limited access to healthier food options, the only available alternative might be from a convenience store or a fast food chain.

The Las Vegas region is one such area. According to a recent study, 1 in 8 individuals are food insecure in southern Nevada – which includes 1 in 6 children. 

Here, the nonprofit The Just One Project is developing a new paradigm to create better access to healthier food. By creating a no-cost Community Market inside an elementary school, the organization can help serve the school’s students and their families, plus faculty and staff, by meeting them where they are.

The Community Market at Manch Elementary School, which is in the valley’s largest food desert, is made possible thanks to a two-year collaboration with UnitedHealthcare Health Plan of Nevada Medicaid. An investment of more than $668,000 will support three no-cost markets at Clark County School District (CCSD) sites and an innovative Groceries on the Go program. 

The Just One Project serves more than 20,000 southern Nevadans facing food insecurity through mobile and client-centric grocery distribution of fresh produce and pantry essentials.

The Community Market at Manch Elementary School is by appointment and open to Manch students, families, faculty and staff during school hours. Staffed by The Just One Project case managers, the market features fresh groceries, produce, recipes, nutritional advice, household items and more.

Individuals and families who visit the market may also access the organization’s Community Connect wraparound services including homeless prevention assistance, rapid rehousing and other supportive services.

“Many of the areas that we serve do not have access to affordable groceries,” said Brooke Neubauer, founder and CEO of The Just One Project. “That was a huge component in Clark County School District in feeling that this model could fill a gap. Specifically with the overall health of their students. If you have this access inside of a school, you’re going to where the families are.”

By making these groceries more accessible, and in a place where families can encounter them on a daily basis within their own schedules, this can also reduce barriers with transportation.

Through the collaboration, two other no-cost community markets were opened at the CCSD Family Support Center (August 2023) and Mojave High School (February 2024).

Groceries on the Go, another food access solution, brings low-cost groceries directly to the neighborhoods in need, whether it’s an apartment complex, a community center or other areas designated as a food desert.

For the students of Manch Elementary school, the Community Market is a point of pride.

“The feedback is the excitement that they have a store at their school,” Brooke Neubauer said. “And our case managers are incredibly kind and compassionate and some of them have lived experience. It’s just nice to go somewhere where you feel good about yourself.”

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