While working at Charlestown’s Fitzgerald Youth Sports Institute, Northeastern alum Josh Trautwein has been educating families on the benefits of healthy eating. But when the closest grocery store is 45-minutes away, Trautwein noticed those same families are forced to shop at corner store markets instead, where the produce isn’t as fresh, yet somehow more expensive.
“It was great we were hosting this program,” Trautwein says, “but it didn’t change the fact that families had little access to vegetables.”
After examining businesses around the city, one word kept popping up during the program: mobile.
Take Mayor Tom Menino’s City Hall Truck, coined “City Hall to Go,” for example. The truck is traveling throughout Boston’s neighborhoods at pre-determined times, allowing city dwellers to dispute any parking tickets or ask questions about death, marriage or birth certificates without having to make the trek down to Government Center.
So why couldn’t that same access be provided to families in need of accessible and affordable produce? That question is one Trautwein is now trying to solve with the launch of a mobile farmers market called Fresh Truck.
Operating out of an eco-friendly retrofitted school bus, the social startup has plans to run on a regular weekly schedule, targeting multiple neighborhoods a day that are underserved in terms of food access.
The Fresh Truck team is comprised of fellow Northeastern alum Daniel Clarke, Bentley alum Prashanth Gubbala, Harvard College student Bari Saltman and Igor Souza, owner of digital agency Rogi Art. Together, they have already been able to raise roughly $5,000 thanks to local nonprofits Boston Rising and the Center for Women & Enterprise.
“Our network has been built through some of the other work I’ve done throughout the city,” Trautwein says. “We connected with Boston Rising very early on. They helped us through the transitional period to refine and polish the business plan to a place where we can work with investors.”
To garner more initial investments, however, the Fresh Truck team has headed to Kickstarter. They’ve launched a $30,000 campaign in order to buy and retrofit the school bus they want. Once they have purchased the bus, they will be installing hardwood floors, as well as foldout racks for produce, a checkout counter, POS system and external sound system to create a block party atmosphere. They will also be engineering the bus to run on biofuel and solar power, so Fresh Truck can stay true to its identity as being a socially responsible, sustainable entity.
Trautwein has already had conversations with the relevant City of Boston agencies to outline timetables for obtaining all necessary licenses and permits. The goal is to launch this spring and start serving the neighborhoods mapped out above.
“We’re looking to engage a lot of local groups,” Trautwein says, claiming they have been trying to figure out how Fresh Truck can support Boston’s existing health initiatives.
“It’s difficult is there’s no Stop & Shop within an hour of your apartment,” Saltman says. “We’re really dealing with an issue of inequity here.”
To learn more about Fresh Truck, check out the team’s Kickstarter video below. To help fund the project, click here.