These School Buses Transport Food, Not Students
Lugging grocery bags from the checkout line to the car can be a chore in and of itself. Now imagine that you can’t just jump in your car but actually have to walk all the way back to your front door located more than one mile away from the neighborhood grocer. This is the experience of many Americans who live in food deserts, where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is extremely limited and the easiest option is to grocery shop at the local convenient store or buy fast food.
Founded in 2013 by Northeastern alumni, Josh Trautwein and Annika Morgan, Fresh Truck is bringing nutritious and affordable groceries to low-income neighborhoods throughout the Boston area with repurposed school buses and deep community engagement. Today, the nonprofit plays a vital role in supporting healthy living and brings together many different stakeholders who are all working towards the same end.
Fresh Groceries On Wheels!
Fresh Truck supports its surrounding Boston neighborhoods through a number of programs. First and foremost, the organization has two different mobile markets (repurposed school buses) that travel consistently to more than ten locations, all year around. By visiting the same locations at the same time six days a week, the buses serve as reliable and healthy neighborhood grocery stores that residents can count on for their shopping. The colorful exterior branding and design of Fresh Truck’s mobile markets match the beautiful fruits and vegetables that sit on the shelves inside the buses. All food is purchased wholesale from Katsiroubas Produce and sells at affordable prices.
Fresh Truck not only sees itself as a mobile grocer, but also as a promoter of overall health. “We are a cost-effective, high-impact food access solution to ensure families have access to fresh food in their neighborhood,” says Trautwein. “We’re working toward making food a more integrated part of community health care.” To this end, the nonprofit runs a program, FoodRx, that allows health-focused organizations to purchase “FreshCash,” currency that can be gifted to residents to be used in the mobile markets. This food prescription model enables health centers and care providers to help people understand the important connection between food and health through Fresh Truck’s programs. To date, over $100k in FreshCash has been gifted & used by neighborhood residents to purchase groceries.
Finally, Fresh Truck also uses its buses to host pop-up events throughout the year and partner with schools, community centers, other organizations, and corporations to educate communities. The organization has hosted more than 130 events and is willing to customize its buses for many different kinds of purposes.
“We’re Not Doing Brain Surgery…Just Selling Fruits From A Bus”
– Co-Founder Josh Trautwein
Fresh Truck was founded by Northeastern alumni, Josh Trautwein and Annika Morgan who leveraged their on-campus venture accelerator called The IDEA Lab which is a student-led venture accelerator that fosters the development of entrepreneurs in the Northeastern community through the educational exeperience of developing a business from concept to launcht. Trautwein first got the idea for the nonprofit while working as a health educator within a neighborhood where the main grocery store was shutting down for a year-long renovation. He found that the lessons he was trying to teach to residents were not landing well as so much of healthy living is impacted by responsible eating which was much harder without a local grocer. Knowing that a mobile food market wasn’t a unique idea, Trautwein decided to set his concept apart by having his buses serve as hubs for community engagement and education.
In 2013, he put Fresh Trucks on Kickstarter with a few others who were involved early on and raised over $32k from 316 backers to fund the purchase and retrofitting of the first bus. Since then, Fresh Truck has also been supported by grant funding and IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run accelerator program. The nonprofit has continued to thrive and augment health initiatives throughout the Boston area where more than half of low-income communities are located in food deserts. Currently, the team is working on getting its third mobile market bus up-and-running.
Find A Desert, Create An Oasis
With Fresh Truck, we see an example of someone who took an already successful model for bringing healthy food into areas with limited access to grocery stores and enhanced it by creating a network of organizations that all support one another towards a similar end goal. This Untold story reveals the power of building strong partnerships and aligning with others who share a vision, especially in the social enterprise space. Although your delivery and financial models might differ, how can you and your peers work together for the mutual benefit of everybody involved?