Goodness to Go: Freshest Cargo: Mobile Farmers Markets
A Mobile & Fresh Approach to a Healthier Community
As a child, did you race your friends to the ice cream truck? Nothing beat the neighborhood delivery of a cool treat on a hot day. Today, food trucks of all sorts have popped up and now are responding to a new set of needs: delivering fresh, nutritious produce to underserved neighborhoods and people in our area.
Through a community partnership and nonprofit program in the Bay Area, food accessibility has been re-imagined to deliver affordable, healthy, fresh food to those who need it most. The nonprofit organization Fresh Approach delivers farm-fresh produce in colorful food trucks through a mobile farmers market program called Freshest Cargo, which travels to communities that have limited access to grocery stores and affordable nutritious foods.
These neighborhoods are identified and mapped by the USDA as “food desert” communities and many exist right here in our own region. Freshest Cargo’s mobile farmers’ market trucks source produce from local farms and then deliver it directly to customers where they live. “The produce is fresh, colorful, healthy and is delivered to locations where people can go or where they’re already gathering, like schools, hospitals, community centers and senior centers,” says Fresh Approach Executive Director Lucy Norris.
In Silicon Valley, Freshest Cargo trucks make weekly stops in designated neighborhoods and parking lots in San Jose, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.
On a recent visit to a Freshest Cargo route stop, the approachable truck offered baskets filled with seasonal fresh greens, vegetables, berries, melons and just-picked peaches. Customers could choose from more than 100 types of locally grown produce, sourced from 30 local farms, all at reasonable prices. Andy Ollove, manager of Fresh Approach’s food access program, says, “On the truck today, for example, are Rodriguez Farm’s berries and Buttercup Farm’s cherry tomatoes along with other seasonal produce.”
Prices are a factor that Fresh Approach works hard to balance across the local food ecosystem. In their mission of affordability, Fresh Approach participates in the USDA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program, which works to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among the needy. Freshest Cargo’s incentive programs are carefully calibrated to keep prices at reasonable levels.
Freshest Cargo’s nonprofit program is built on partnerships with community-minded people at the USDA, Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association, hospitals, health clinics, city governments and businesses including Facebook and LinkedIn. “We can’t do any of this in a silo and these relationships allow us to get these foods to our communities,” says Norris. “We offer accessibility, nutrition education and connecting communities with healthy produce from local farmers.”
One connection is Kaiser Permanente South Bay Hub Community Health and Benefits Manager Stephan Wahl, who says, “Our Healthy Eating Active Living initiative supports Fresh Approach’s work on multiple levels, with an ultimate goal of increasing access and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for everyone.”
Communities are healthier now because people have come together to make these programs approachable, economical and accessible right in neighborhoods where they are needed most.
Find out more about the Freshest Cargo community-supporting mobile market program and the nonprofit Fresh Approach at FreshApproach.org. To see a map of areas designated as food deserts, visit USDA’s Food Access Research Atlas website at ERS.USDA.gov and click on the Maps tab.