Got a craving for tacos, but don't live near a restaurant?
Want to eat healthy, but the gas station is your only local grocer?
Want to support a local farm, but think it's impossible because you live in the heart of the Bronx?
Somebody somewhere has heard you, and they've responded by taking what you're looking for, putting it on wheels, and driving it into your neighborhood.
Farm To Truck To Table
The food trucks came first.
In Los Angeles, the birthplace of the craze, hundreds of trucks roam the streets selling everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to Indian food to Korean tacos.
MoGro have taken the concept one step up the food supply chain, drawing the attention and support of food guru Michael Pollan along the way. They're using temperature-controlled trucks to bring healthy, affordable groceries to food deserts. Their soft launch took place in April 2011 at the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico, to positive results.
From Truck Bed To Garden Bed
Truck Farm - part art piece, part farm, part documentary, part educational project - doesn't just bring you the produce, it brings you the earth that grew it. It's a mobile garden in the bed of a 1986 pickup truck that "brings the rural experience to urban students."
Their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program delivers small amounts of produce to 20 families for a price of $20 per year.
CSAs allow consumers to pay a fee to local farm at the beginning of the planting season in exchange for regular supply of vegetables throughout the harvest. In urban environments, CSA relationships are often impossible to build simply because local farms don't exist - and this is one of the many problems that Truck Farm is working to address.
New York City-based Truck Farm currently has only one truck, but they're looking to expand to 25 trucks distributed across every major US city.
Not Without Controversy
Truck Farm's primary mandate is to educate urban youth about farming; they do not presume that pickup-truck farms could feed any significant number of people. Both the food trucks and the mobile grocery, however, seek to fill gaps they've spotted in the food market, and both are shrouded in some controversy.
Brick-and-mortar restaurants are starting to feel pressure from the competition brought by food trucks. In Chicago, for example, food trucks may only sell pre-packaged foods. A proposal is currently underway to legalize food trucks with cooking on the premises, but is being resisted by restaurant owners who want protection for their businesses to be somehow written in.
At least one commentator is nervous that MoGro may not be an effective long-term solution to the problem of food deserts. Katherine Gustafson of Change.org asks: "What happens to a family when the bus they're depending on to bring their dinner breaks down or can't make its rounds?â¦Even more ominously, what happens when gas prices spike and the mobile supermarket's operations are suddenly more expensive?"
What do you think of this mobile food movement? Does anyone have any experiences, good or bad, with food trucks, mobile grocers, or the Truck Farm?
- Is the L.A. Food Truck Bubble Ready To Burst? (NPR)
- Restaurant-Owning Alderman Demands Limits On Food Truck Proposal (Chicago Sun Times)
- Can USDA Mobile Grocery Stores Eliminate Rural Food Deserts? (Change.org)