A local nonprofit organization is looking to use a mobile grocery store to combat food insecurity in Binghamton.

Greater Good Grocery, a grocery store located on Binghamton’s North Side, was founded as part of a community-wide effort to provide low-income families with access to healthy, fresh food at affordable prices, with its profits going toward programming from the Broome County Council of Churches. The store is now looking to expand its services to other neighborhoods using a converted school bus filled with groceries to support families in need.

Launched in January, the mobile bus has served over 100 community members. Reverend Joseph Sellepack, Broome County Council of Churches’ executive director, explained how the bus helps residents who need affordable groceries and their plans to address local food insecurity.

“The goal is to make all of the programs at the store including SNAP double bucks and WIC available to people who cannot get to the bricks and mortar store,” Sellepack wrote in an email. “We know that because of transportation issues, many face obstacles in getting to a grocery store. The Greater Good Bus will help bring the store to them. All of these programs are the attempt of the Broome County Council of Churches to fight food insecurity and to make healthy food available to all of God’s children. We do not believe that anyone should be hungry.”

Binghamton is one of many areas across upstate New York where residents struggle to access affordable groceries. The Conklin Avenue Weis Market closure on Binghamton’s South Side has raised concerns about how residents in vulnerable communities will be able to travel to other grocery stores without reliable transportation.

Many neighborhoods, including those on the South Side, don’t have a bus line that takes them to a grocery store outside of their community. Residents relying on public transportation to go to the grocery store could only afford around three or four bags worth of groceries — not enough to feed a family.

Councilwoman Kinya Middleton serves as the general manager of Greater Good Grocery, and she has helped address Binghamton’s food desert problem. She emphasized that the bus helps families who don’t have transportation to the physical store by providing them with the same services they would have received.

“We have people who say that they want to come to the grocery store, but they can’t get there,” Middleton said. “What we’re trying to do is bring that same model, but just a mobile model … If you give us like a two-week notice, we’ll come to wherever in Broome County.”

According to a Tufts University study, the Rochester and Buffalo metropolitan areas, Onondaga County and Broome County all lack healthy food access, and four of the five areas with the highest number of food deserts in New York are upstate. Besides Weis, other stores, including ShopRite and Tops, have closed their stores across the state, which has made it difficult for families who live in the area to purchase affordable and nutritious food. ShopRite closed five of its upstate stores in Albany at the end of last year.

“I think the bus is an excellent way to help address food insecurity in the Binghamton area,” Sara Velardi, a professor of environmental studies who has studied food insecurity, wrote. “If one of the major challenges for people is not being able to get to a grocery store because of transportation issues, this can help bring the food options to them.”