The Food Column: Farm Truck Foods is rolling




Farm Truck Foods is about to launch a service that will bring truckloads of farm-fresh foods to underserved neighborhoods, to be sold farmers-market style.

The service will launch at the Homewood Health Matters 5K and Health Expo, which will be held this Saturday, June 6, at Stargell Field in Homewood.

Farm Truck Foods started conceptually as a graduate school project. Meredith Neel-Jurinko and Michelle Lagree conceived the idea while working on MBAs at Carlow University, and Landon DePaulo hatched a similar idea while working toward his master of food studies at Chatham University.

Both teams submitted proposals to Idea Foundry (ideafoundry.org) as part of a competition, and Idea Foundry staff urged the teams to combine forces and submit a proposal for a $10,000 grant, which is what got them started two years ago.

The project stalled for a while due to lack of funding, but a $75,000 Neighborhood Allies grant gave the team the final push needed to implement the plan.

They’ve bought a truck and outfitted it with solar panels to run the refrigeration and freezers on board. They’ve made arrangements to buy fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, eggs, honey, breads, grains, fresh pasta and other products in bulk from local farms and other vendors, and they’ll turn around and resell those items in communities where residents often have trouble accessing high-quality, fresh food. Some of the food will be certified organic. Some vendors are offering special pricing in order to help make the food affordable to people who might not otherwise have access to fresh, local food.

Ms. Neel-Jurinko said there will be about 120 to 130 items on the truck in any given week this summer. The truck will be certified to accept SNAP (food stamps).

Mr. DePaulo will drive the truck, and the trio will hire a few hourly employees to assist with setup and inventory at each location. They’ll display everything farmers-market style, with items that need cooling remaining on the truck.

Neighborhood stops are scheduled weekly as follows:

• Monday: 2 to 3:30 p.m. at York Commons, 4003 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville; a second stop in Homewood, times and location to be announced.

• Tuesday: 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Daily Mart, 1125 Arlington Ave., Allentown.

• Wednesday: 3:30-6:30 p.m. at Element Church, 205 North Ave., Millvale.

• Thursday: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 4812 Second Ave. in Hazelwood; a stop in Glenhazel (time and location to be announced); and 5 to 7 p.m. at Kingsley Association, 6453 Frankstown Ave., Larimer.

• Friday: 12:30 to 2 p.m. at Crafton Plaza, 35 East Crafton Ave.; 3 to 6 p.m. in McKees Rocks (location to be announced).

• Weekends: Still in the planning stages.

Watch ftfpgh.com for updated times and locations, as well as for the official starting dates when deliveries will begin in each neighborhood.

Eventually, the trio would like to expand and man an entire fleet of trucks to take local foods into other neighborhoods and even other counties, such as to Aliquippa and Ambridge in Ms. Neel-Jurinko’s home area of Beaver County, where she said sparse public transportation can make it tough for residents to get good food.

Farm Truck Foods’ kickoff on Saturday will run in tandem with other events scheduled for Homewood’s health fair. Registration for a 5K race is from 8 to 9:30 a.m. The race starts at 10 a.m., followed by a health expo with screenings and health education at 11 a.m. There’s also a children’s race at 11:30 a.m. Race registration is $10 per person. For information about the event, call 412-463-7448 or e-mail mrobinson@hcvpgh.org.

Food events this week

Fungi Education Day: Mushroom classes starting at 9:15 a.m., followed by a mushroom walk at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel. $10 for morning or afternoon session only; $20 for the full day. (No fee for the walk.) wpamushroomclub.org/events/fungi-education-day.

Greek Food Fair: Lamb shanks, pastitsio, moussaka, spanakopita, tiropita, gyros, baklava, rice pudding and more. 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 10-13 at Holy Cross Church in Mt. Lebanon. 412-854-6001 or holycrosspgh.org.

Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.





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