March 1, 2016
Greater Somerset Public Health Partnership
It’s rush hour. The kids are hungry, just picked up from day care. It’s been a day full of hassles and I have no idea what to make for dinner. Time to hit the drive through?
In New York City, the “Green Cart” initiative has been a great success in increasing access to fresh produce for busy New Yorkers. How do we translate this success to working families in a car-centered New Jersey suburb? How do we create a policy to encourage a healthy alternative to drive-through?
Welcome to Farmers Market on a Truck.
At first, this seemed like a bizarre concept. But talking to our partners, I heard nostalgic stories—“I remember when the vegetable truck used to come to our neighborhood…”
So, Local Health Departments in the Greater Somerset area are teaming up to put Farmer’s Markets on the back of a truck. We are teaming up with local farmers to make “farm-to–table” into “Farm-to-Go”.
Four municipalities–Bernards, Bridgewater, Hillsborough, and Montgomery—are waiving fees for Mobile Food Vendors who commit to selling fresh produce. These fees can add up to hundreds of dollars, especially as a food truck travels from town to town.
Our local farmers want to expand and build a customer base for locally grown produce. Our towns want to encourage farmland preservation, and that requires someplace to sell their produce.
We are partnering with local day care centers, affordable housing sites, and community centers to host the Mobile Farm Market at dismissal/arrival times, when the temptation for quick and easy dinner is at its peak.
Local Health officials know that there are a lot of food trucks on the road selling unhealthy foods. Food trucks have become something of a cultural phenomenon. As policy makers, we can use this project to nudge them toward a healthier menu. We’re aiming to have four healthy food or produce trucks on the road this summer. But even if we just get people talking about it, and build enthusiasm, that’s a “win”.
The Greater Somerset Public Health Partnership is a collaboration of the local health departments and partner agencies serving Somerset County (and parts of Mercer & Morris Counties).