Thanks to Michele Obama, there has been a bit of press lately about the idea of a food desert – an area where healthy, affordable food is hard to find. Most are located in minority communities in larger cities and are concerning as they serve as barriers to individuals attempting to adopt healthier lifestyles. There are many proposed solutions. One interesting idea is to have food trucks bring the local fare directly to those in need.
The idea of food trucks buying and providing local food is not new, and there are many arguments for eating locally. That said, food trucks and street food in general has been gaining popularity over the past few years. Each urban area has its own group of well known food trucks. Often, they each specialize in something – Thai food, curry, tacos, or local cuisine. In Charlotte, one great food truck example is Roots with the tag line “Good Local Food”. Roots focuses on purchasing from local farmers and serving only food that is in season. They post their menu and location daily on their blog and via twitter so you always know what is available and where you may find them.
Pushing beyond just providing mobile local food, there are a group of food trucks that are taking an extra step. Specifically, they aim to provide healthy food to areas in which access may otherwise be limited – the recently discussed food deserts.
In Kansas City an initiative started in 2010 called Beans and Greens. Beans and Greens is basically a farmer’s market on wheels. The truck itself carries produce, meat, and cheeses and targets underserved areas. The food on the trucks is purchased from local farmers. The amazing thing about this program is that they are matching – dollar for dollar – the benefits of SNAP (a food stamp program). So, a SNAP customer can buy $20 worth of healthy goods while spending only $10.
A similar initiative is taking place in New Mexico where MoGro, a mobile grocery store, is bringing fresh local food directly to customers. The trucks include produce, breads, and other healthy food choices both fresh and frozen. Not only does MoGro bring food, but they go one step further and offer cooking demonstrations and even exercise classes. (Update: According to their site, MoGro has put a temporary hold on food deliveries but is continuing educational courses while they revamp their program).
Another food truck worth mentioning is in Vermont. Digger’s Mirth is a collective farm in Burlington that decided to set up a mobile vegetable stand. The farmers at Digger’s Mirth had noted an impoverished area that did not necessarily have access to organic produce and decided to purchase an old postal service van and see what they could do to help. They offer fresh organic vegetables at a lower price than the farmer’s market and plan to begin taking food stamps soon.
Are food trucks the magical solution to fix the food desert issue? Likely not, but they offer options and definitely appear to be a step in the right direction.
Do you have a favorite food truck that emphasizes local food?