October 18, 2012

VUSM student lauded for Mobile Market

School of Medicine student Ravi Patel, seated, is being honored for his work creating the Nashville Mobile Market. With him at the healthy food project’s debut three years ago are, from left, Vanderbilt students Nicole Gunasekera, Alex Arnold, Emily Zern and Kate Foster. (Photo by John Russell)

Ravi Patel, a fourth-year Vanderbilt University School of Medicine student, is this year’s winner of the NEXT Youth Entrepreneur Award, and the business he started three years ago, the Nashville Mobile Market, is this year’s winner for Sustainability and Social Enterprise Startup Business of the Year.

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Entrepreneur Center present the annual NEXT Awards to recognize business growth, job creation and corporate commitment fostered by innovative entrepreneurs and businesses in Middle Tennessee.

Patel came up with the concept for the Nashville Mobile Market as part of a Vanderbilt undergraduate class in Human and Organizational Development. Later in the summer between his first and second years as a medical student, he completed his Emphasis Project on the critical need for access to fresh produce and healthy food products in the “food desert” areas around Nashville.

In February 2010, he and some fellow students used a $65,000 grant from the Frist Foundation to purchase their first trailer. Since then, the Center for Health Solutions has hosted the Nashville Mobile Market, with the Medical Center and University providing crucial support. Baptist Healing Trust recently awarded a $51,000 grant to the group to help expand its program.

“We are still operating out of that first truck, but we have now grown to 15 sites in all three major food deserts of Nashville, operating 35 hours per week from Tuesday to Saturday,” Patel said. “This award is a testament to what students can accomplish. Only because of the help of more than 600 dedicated volunteers, 80 student leaders and multiple community partners has the Nashville Mobile Market become a true part of the communities that we serve. All of these volunteers are the true recipients of these awards.”

Patel received both NEXT awards at a recent downtown Nashville ceremony Sept. 27. He said the Mobile Market continues to look for support from the community and volunteers.

You can learn more on their website at nashvillemobilemarket.org, or “like” them on Facebook.