Baltimarket: The Virtual Supermarket Project
Baltimarket—The Virtual Supermarket Program (VSP) is an innovative, award-winning Baltimore City Health Department program that uses an online grocery ordering/delivery system (Santoni's Super Market) to bring food to neighborhoods with low-vehicle ownership and little access to healthy foods (commonly called food deserts). The VSP enables neighborhood residents to place grocery orders at their local library branch, school or senior/disabled housing site or from any Internet enabled computer or device. Residents pick up their order weekly at their community site. The delivery cost is paid by the Health Department.
You don't have to have to be computer saavy to use the VSP; help with placing an order is available at our library locations . Residents can pay for their groceries using cash, credit, debit and EBT/SNAP (food stamps). The VSP increases their access to high quality, affordable groceries in the very neighborhood that they live in, allowing them to bypass the difficulty and expense of catching multiple bus rides or taxis. The VSP is the only program nationally that uses online food ordering and accepts SNAP.
Our goal is to improve the health and wellness of Baltimore City residents by providing increased access to healthy food options at affordable, supermarket prices. Baltimarket partners with city libraries, schools, and senior/disabled housing operators for ordering and deliveries. Sites are selected based on diet-related health indicators, food environment, income/poverty, and household access to a vehicle. The VSP staff provide healthy cooking demonstrations along with healthy eating recipe books.
Additionally, VSP participants are provided with a $10 incentive to purchase healthy foods on their first order and every fourth order after that to promote healthy eating.
The VSP is taking a community-based and self-sustaining approach to expansion. Under our new service model, community residents will act as program liaisons and operate future sites with VSP staff providing training, technical support, marketing assistance and nutrition education. This reflects our goals of increasing program utilization, embeding the VSP in the community and ensuring sustainability.
To encourage online ordering from sites throughout the community, the VSP holds online ordering training sessions at community organizations, schools, government buildings and other library sites.
The success of the VSP is due to our strong relationships with our partners: the Baltimore City Food Policy Advisory Council (Food PAC) and Santoni’s Super Market, a local Baltimore City grocer that has been serving residents for over 75 years. The Enoch Pratt Free Library is one of the oldest free public library systems in the United States, with 23 branches throughout Baltimore City. MICA’s Center for Design Practice provides marketing strategies and facilitates the development of media materials. MICA’s goal is to engage students in the process of problem solving, ultimately using design to make a positive impact on society. Baltimore City Public Schools serves as a partner to help improve the health of Baltimore City public school students by serving as a site for the VSP. The VSP is currently collaborating with Baltimore Housing to ensure that all low-income residents have access to food.
For more information about our Baltimarket sites please visit: www.baltimarket.org
The Virtual Supermarket is generously supported by the United Way of Central Maryland, the Aetna Foundation and the Walmart Foundation.
Improving Food Access in Baltimore
Created for the U.S. Conference of Mayors held in Baltimore, Maryland in June 2011, this video highlights the academic, governmental, grassroots, and volunteer efforts to improve access to healthy affordable food in Baltimore City. Collaborations between the City of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University, and community organizations are serving to put key policy recommendations in action to make healthy food more affordable and accessible, and in doing so creating healthier people, neighborhoods and farmers.