by Marvin Cadet, Regional Project Manager & Matt Tanner, Regional Director of Operations, East Region

When Hurricane Maria ripped through the Caribbean, 400,000 Puerto Ricans evacuated the island they called home to establish new roots.

Many of them chose to settle in Central Florida. However, the influx of new residents put a great burden on a school system that was already running at capacity. School food pantries were converted into classrooms to create space for the district’s newest students. This spacing crisis hampered the ongoing efforts to fight food insecurity in the community.

However, our Orlando service platoons teamed up with one of their lead operational partners, Second Harvest Food Bank, to come up with a solution: the Mobile Market Unit.

“When more than ten thousand families arrived in Central Florida after Hurricane Maria, The Mission Continues’s Orlando service platoons didn’t hesitate to provide direct support for displaced youth facing food insecurity. Dozens of volunteers came together to fabricate custom ‘Mobile Market Units’ for local schools with the highest influx of Puerto Rican evacuee students,” said Bobby Withers, Orlando’s 1st Platoon Leader.

A mobile market unit (MMU) is two shelving units joined together with a hinge and wheels attached at the base. The MMU can store enough food to provide meals for the student body, and its wheels allow schools to position them in front of the school to greet students after school on their way home or to wheel directly into classrooms.

“The school market allows me to check in with students in transition in an easier and more effective way. I feel that I am giving them something and they appreciate it,” said a Cocoa High School administrator. “ They feel the school is helping them which can make a difference in their attendance during a very rough time for them. It also is a foot in the door to talk about community resources that people are otherwise more guarded about.”

To date, The Mission Continues and Second Harvest Food Bank have built 16 MMUs which are in use at 16 different schools across Central FL. Those MMUs have resulted in 68,907 pounds of food distributed to 275,727 students!

“MMUs gave Second Harvest Food Bank the ability to adapt and overcome quickly, bringing desperately needed nutrition to impacted communities when and where it was needed most,” said Withers.

Our projects team at The Mission Continues has designed an easy to replicate build plan for our MMUs with the hope that the national network of The Mission Continues and Second Harvest Food Bank will be able to replicate this impact across the country!

Click below to page through the build plans, and feel free to download them:

MMU_BuildPlan_2020

From conception to delivery, the mobile market unit is an example of what can happen when veterans are connected to their communities and given a chance to innovate.