Written by: Sophia Young
It is no secret that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is the key to a healthy diet. However, over the years, access to good quality produce has become more and more difficult. The costs of fruits and vegetables, especially in urban areas, have become expensive, making it harder for people in these communities to afford them. But duo Josh Trautwein and Annika Morgan aimed to change that.
What is a Fresh Truck?
This initiative all started when co-founder Joshua Trautwein was a community health worker. When the only grocery store in the neighborhood he served closed down, he began to understand just how serious food accessibility was an issue to the health and diet of people. He started About Fresh, the social enterprise pioneering Fresh Truck, after not being able to find healthy food sources for the families of that neighborhood.
Fresh Trucks are retrofitted school buses with a new purpose: to bring fresh food to communities so households can have access to healthy food. The trucks park in the same locations in low-income neighborhoods with fresh fruits and vegetables.
How Fresh Truck is Making Healthy Food Accessible to Communities
About Fresh tackles three key focus areas: the retail access people have to healthy food, their purchasing power, and the culture and built environment that influences people’s beliefs and attitudes toward food. They acknowledge how food and culture are strongly intertwined and they try to uplift the full diversity of food cultures represented in the city, especially a health-centered culture food.
The Fresh Truck mobile market model takes into account the neighborhood they are serving. They track the inventory to ensure that they are offering not only fresh produce but food that people in that neighborhood want to buy. Keeping diversity in mind, they carry cultural staples like mangoes, yuca, and plantains. The prices of their produce are also cheaper than those in retail grocery stores.
Chief program officer and co-founder of Fresh Truck, Annika Morgan, sites how their East Boston location takes two extra cases of plantains because those sell out quickly, considering how it has a significant Hispanic population.
Instead of having conversations about foods that are “bad,” the social enterprise focuses on how “healthy food has you at your best” as their message.
As of the moment, About Fresh has two programs to address their key focus areas. Fresh Trucks are the most visible, with their weekly markets. To keep it consistent with the neighborhoods they are serving, they stop at the same place, at the same time, every week, all year round.
For those who enjoy the convenience of stress-free grocery delivery services, About Fresh also offers the Fresh Truck Online Market. People can pre-order their produce, pay with any of their supported payment methods, and pick it up at their preferred location.
Fresh Truck can also be a part of your food and health-focused community events, the truck chock-full of fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables for the attendees.
To better support households or individuals struggling with food insecurity, About Fresh has also created the Fresh Connect program. When social service agencies, healthcare providers, social workers, or even teachers recognize anyone in their community struggling, they can, as the name suggests, connect these people to About Fresh.
The program has a Fresh Connect card that the provider can sign up for that person. After they have completed the enrollment on the web-based platform, the card is mailed to that person.
The Fresh Connect card enables the holder to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables across About Fresh’s network of retailers, including the online Fresh Truck market. To make it easier upon checkout, the cost of the approved healthy foods is automatically drawn down at the point of sale. The data gathered from these sales can also be used to analyze whether or not there are positive health-related trends connected to Fresh Truck shopping and the Fresh Connect program engagement.
Why Access to Fresh Produce is Essential
Food plays a vital role in our health. It not only affects the physical health of the community but their mental health as well. It is estimated that food is responsible for a trillion dollars worth of direct and indirect healthcare costs. Unfortunately, the food system has had huge discrepancies in the accessibility of healthy options.
Food insecurity is just the tip of the iceberg of the myriad of challenges that people face. Deeper underlying issues like income inequality, minimum wage, poverty, and housing instability make it difficult for people to access food, even more so healthier options that can better sustain them. Social enterprises like About Fresh are looking to find that balance that can uplift these sectors, meeting their right-now needs while also addressing those deeper-rooted issues.
While it is not a magic pill to solve all of the community’s issues, providing access to healthy food is a key step to helping them. The more they can better fuel themselves with the necessary nutrients to take on the day, the more their quality of life changes for the better.
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