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Fresh Truck debuts at Boston City Hall

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

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