Josh Trautwein stood on the roof of Fresh Truck, the retrofitted school bus he and fellow Northeastern alumnus Daniel Clarke have turned into the Boston’s first mobile farmer’s market, and shouted an announcement the pair had been waiting to make for months.
“Fresh Truck is open for business.” Trautwein hollered to passersby at Boston’s City Hall Plaza last Thursday, a grin stretched wide across his face. “Come on in!”
The event served as Fresh Truck’s formal introduction to the city and its residents. The mobile farmers market, a social venture funded in part through a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $32,000 earlier this year, debuted outside City Hall following an invitation from Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s office.
The bus, which is painted white, emblazoned with the words “Driving food, health, and community,” and whose interior serves as a long, narrow produce shop, will make stops across the city to bring fresh fruits and vegetables directly into communities that aren’t adequately served by supermarkets or other sources of healthy food. Fresh Truck is still finalizing its weekly schedule with city officials, but to start it will be located outside New England Baptist Hospital in Roxbury on Mondays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at the Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Fresh Truck partners with local community groups and works to provide its customers with the knowledge they’d need to prepare new dishes from ingredients they might never have encountered before. Its produce is purchased from the New England Produce Center. All the food is fresh, and much of it is organic and locally grown, Clarke explained.
“We want to get as much healthy food out there into the community as we can, so we’re selling it at the lowest price point possible,” said Clarke, Fresh Truck’s CEO who graduated from Northeastern last year with a degree in business administration. He noted that Fresh Truck’s goal is to sell food about 20 percent lower than retail prices, which can be accomplished with the low-overhead business model it shares with Boston’s burgeoning food truck scene.
Clarke and Trautwein worked with IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run venture accelerator, to develop their for-profit business model, which they believe will give them more flexibility to raise money and modify their work to best serve their customers and the city at large.
So far, Boston residents and community organizations seem very receptive to Fresh Truck.
“It’s been really humbling, the support we’ve been getting from the city and the government,” said Trautwein, Fresh Truck’s chief marketing officer who graduated in 2010 with a degree in sociology. “People are really excited because they recognize the need for us.”
Last week’s kickoff event aimed to emulate a block party atmosphere, something Trautwein and Clarke say will be common at all Fresh Truck stops. Music pumped into the plaza and first-time visitors were encouraged to explore Fresh Truck and learn about its ambitions for improving food access in Boston.
“It’s been a ton of work to get this all up and running,” Clarke said, “so we’re really excited to get out there now and start to make a difference in Boston.”
– By Matt Collette