Farm Truck Foods brings nutritious and affordable products to Pittsburgh communities with limited access to supermarkets. First hatched as a conceptual project in graduate school, FTF has since gone on to receive a $75,000 grant from Neighborhood Allies and has been partnering with dozens of local purveyors including Edible Earth Farm which supplies them with organic fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Allentown, Mckees Rocks and Homewood are just a few of the neighborhoods that this mobile farmers market has been coming to weekly since their official start on June 6, 2015. FTF founders Michelle Lagree, Meredith Neel-Jurinko, and Landon DePaulo will be bringing the truck to different areas of Pittsburgh five days a week all year long. To view their schedule check out ftfpgh.com.
To better understand the importance of this kind of community initiative in Pittsburgh I asked Meredith Neel, FTF’s PR representative, to explain how they will help underserved neighborhoods and bridge the gap between farm and table.
What makes Pittsburgh a good location for this kind of service?
According to Just Harvest’s report titled A Menu for Food Justice, 47% of Pittsburgh’s population is residing in “Food Deserts” or communities with low-supermarket access. 71% of these residents are considered to be low income. When Pittsburgh is compared to other cities of the same size, we end up being the worst offender. We feel that this gap creates an opportunity to help our fellow residents and farmers alike through our mobile market system, as we can reach numerous areas in need in one week.
What inspired you to do this kind of work?
We simply wanted to help. We saw a need within Pittsburgh communities and we wanted to jump in to help make a better and healthier city. We also wanted to collaborate with our local farmers to alleviate some of the stress that they feel trying to get their produce to market while still tending to their crops.
What does the average day look like for the individuals involved in this process?
There is no such thing as a normal day at Farm Truck Foods. We are constantly fine tuning and tweaking things as we learn more about our communities, customers, and producers.
How do you go about sourcing fresh and local produce in order to bring it to a wider community?
We try to be as hands on as possible with our local farmers and small batch producers. We like to know how they are doing, how we can help them, and if they have any information they would like us to pass on to our customers. We have chosen producers who are passionate about helping the communities and residents that are most in need, and we often give them updates about how things are going. This enables us to take a full circle approach to increasing access to local produce for the wider community.
Over the next 10 years what kind of changes would you like to see for Farm Truck Foods and Western Pennsylvania’s nutritional landscape?
Wow. The next ten years we would hope that a lot would happen for Farm Truck Foods and the nutritional landscape. We would like to see all Western PA residents have consistent access to quality local fresh produce. We would like to see FTF scale so that we can create local jobs, increase demand for local produce, and decrease food related disparities. We would like to create an environment where people can access fresh produce through multiple channels year round while simultaneously re-creating distribution channels for local producers.