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How issues at the Shelby County Clerk's Office are impacting food insecurity

Memphis organizations working to combat food insecurity are scrambling to figure out how to help families in need.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —

Parts of Memphis are dominated by fast food restaurants and convenience stores, but not many supermarkets. 

“There is food. But is it real food?” Roshun Austin, President of Works, the organization that runs the South Memphis Farmers Market, asked. “With the absence of fresh food in certain neighborhoods and a lack of access to transportation, it’s the combination of those things that really define a food desert.”    

According to a report from Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization, 13% of Shelby County residents were considered “food insecure” within the last 3 years. These Memphians lack access to fruits, vegetables, and other produce necessary for an active, healthy life.  

“We operate in areas and zip codes where there’s a low life expectancy and much of it is related to diet-related disorders,” Austin said. 

South Memphis Farmers Market, which serves mostly seniors, has been working for 12 years to turn a food desert into an oasis of healthy eating. The market is now planning to roll out a mobile grocer as fall begins but experiencing delays due to the backlog of vehicle registration at the Shelby County Clerk's Office.   

“Soon, we’ll be rolling out the Mobile Grocer in neighborhoods nearby in South City, in north Memphis neighborhoods in Klondike, Hyde Park, and Douglass and we’ll make at least one stop near our development in Frayser,” she said. 

Austin said the market’s goal is to debut this expansion in the next two weeks but there is no set timeline or date certain, as the county clerk’s office remains behind. The clerk’s office is now closing all next week and for another week in September, citing an attempt to catch up.  

“We just need to get the trailer registered,” Austin said. “It is local now; we were waiting on it to get here from Wisconsin. It is fabricated, and local, we already have the supplier relationships. It is stored at one of our suppliers."   

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