Introducing FreshConnect

Blog / Introducing FreshConnect

In 2O19, Fresh Truck is expanding on a powerful new program to help us become more impactful, innovative, and sustainable. We call it FreshConnect. FreshConnect makes it possible for healthcare providers and other organizations invested in the health of communities to prescribe food as medicine. FreshConnect activates our Mobile Markets as food pharmacies, and we are generating data-driven insight into nutrition and health that can guide patient care. By creating a system for healthy food prescriptions, Fresh Truck is working to reduce the cost of fresh food for patients, make a direct connection between food and health, and improve the health of the Boston community.

To take FreshConnect to the next level, we’re bringing on Michael Lantow as our FreshConnect Program Director. Michael brings with him experience in food programming and healthcare innovation. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with healthcare providers to offer patients with healthy, affordable food. As someone who has a chronic disease, I intimately know the frustrations of searching for foods that make my body feel great while functioning to its full potential. I am committed to easing this experience for others.”

Foundations, corporate sponsors, donors, and healthcare institutions contribute to the FreshConnect Fund to cover the cost of food for their community of people. Our implementation partners enroll households who receive a smart FreshConnect card based on their financial and health needs. Shoppers use these cards on a weekly basis to buy healthy food from any of our mobile market sites. Our point-of-sale system tracks shopper data which stakeholders use to measure key health indicators among their community of FreshConnect shoppers.

Interested in getting involved in FreshConnect? Contact Michael Lantow at or (857) 256-0560.

Blog / Introducing FreshConnect

This is how we roll: New Schedule Development

Blog / This is how we roll: New Schedule Development

Now that Fresh Truck has been on the road for a few years we get a lot of questions about how we make decisions about how to operate the market and design our programs. To answer these questions and many more we are starting a blog series called ‘This is how we roll’. This month we will cover how we develop our new weekly market schedule.

Developing our new schedule

It’s that time of year again; we’re launching our new weekly market schedule September 24th! We’re excited for the opportunity to meet the demand for fresh food in our current neighborhoods, as well as in neighborhoods we aren’t currently serving. Three times a year, we make adjustments to our weekly market schedule to make sure that we’re having the greatest possible impact. We first evaluate our current weekly market sites and then consider new potential sites.

Evaluating current sites

We use shopper engagement to evaluate the success of a weekly market stop. We want to make sure that enough people are shopping with Fresh Truck that it makes sense for us to stay at a certain weekly market site. For stops with low engagement, we work with our site partner to brainstorm ways to bring out more shoppers. For stops with high engagement, we work with our site partner to expand market hours.

Evaluating new sites

There are two main ways that we identify potential new weekly market stops.

  • Inbound requests – Organizations or community members request a Fresh Truck weekly market in their area.
  • Outbound requests – We approach partners in neighborhoods where there is low access to fresh, affordable food.

We consider several factors that may affect the viability of a stop when making our new schedule:

  • Distance from current weekly market stops – Because we have a limited number of weekly market hours to spread across the week, we choose sites that are strategically-placed relative to our existing weekly market sites.
  • Level of need – We target areas with high SNAP (Food Stamps) user density or where there is limited access to fresh, affordable food.
  • Parking – We drive a big bus, and need a place to park it. We rely on our partners to provide a space for us. An off-the-street parking lot is ideal, but partners can also block off a space on the street on the morning of the market.
  • Partner capacity – Strong partners can provide things like translation services and outreach, and can use their expertise about the community to support the success of the market.
  • Scheduling – At every schedule change, we piece together the current and new weekly markets to accommodate each partner’s time and day preferences.
  • Food programs – We are mindful of how federal or state food programs may affect our shopper’s purchasing behavior.

After running a couple test events and getting feedback from our partners and shoppers, we piece together our new weekly market schedule and share it with everyone. Look out for our new schedule Monday, September 24th!

Blog / This is how we roll: New Schedule Development

This is how we roll: New Base of Operations

Blog / This is how we roll: New Base of Operations

Now that Fresh Truck has been on the road for a few years we get a lot of questions about how we make decisions about how to operate the market and design our programs. To answer these questions and many more we are starting a blog series called ‘This is how we roll’. This month we will cover our move to our new base of operations.

Fresh Truck moved into our current location at 69 Shirley St. in Roxbury at the end of June 2018. It serves as the base of operations for our administrative staff, bus operations/parking, and food storage, bringing the whole team together to the same place. We share the 4000 square foot warehouse with City Fresh Foods, a healthy school lunch catering company. It has been a year-long process that brought us here.

For years, Fresh Truck operated out of CommonWealth Kitchen (CWK), an incubator that supports early stage food businesses. CWK provided us with food storage, bus parking, and other basic infrastructure that is burdensome for smaller companies to manage. As we built new buses and started moving more pallets of food every day, however, we slowly outgrew the available resources at CWK, and had to begin to look for a space for the future.

A few things that we needed to think about:

  • What was our budget? How much were we spending between our administrative office, bus parking, and food storage? How much of an investment could our fundraising support?
  • Where are we going to be in 1 year? 3 years? 5 years? We had to consider staff growth, food throughput, vehicle buildout plans, and more. We needed a space that would continue to support us down the road.
  • Where did we need to be? We wanted to strike a balance between where our current staff live, how it affects their commute, and where our market locations were.
  • What features and amenities were we looking for? The obvious ones were a loading dock and cold storage. But, as we explored our options, features that we took for granted, like security, bathrooms, and delivery receiving support did not always come with the property.

We began by looking at some options with real estate agents. It was a struggle. Most of the commercial warehousing options meant for produce/meat/fish wholesale distributors were way too large and too expensive, frequently upwards of 10,000 square feet for more than $10,000/month. They were out of our budget, but they were also some of the only options with essential features like offices and cold storage. We then turned to smaller offices/retail storefronts; these would be the regular restaurant space or a retail store front in a strip mall. These were in the right range in terms of size, but lacking in facilities. We would have had to bring in our own cold storage, and build a loading dock (if it were even possible). These spaces also rarely had parking intended for 40 ft. school buses. We were at a standstill.

We knew that we would need to share the space with another organization. Someone with similar needs for a loading dock and food storage, someone who may have a surplus of space, and would value a partner to shoulder the burden for rent. We reached out to a variety of organizations in the city that consisted of other food rescue and nonprofits. We also talked to some other food businesses that were also about to graduate from CWK, who would be willing to jointly lease a space.

Fortunately, one of the smaller locations that came up for rent was next to City Fresh Foods, an organization we were familiar with, and we reached out about sharing the space. It comes with existing cold storage, parking for three buses, at a location that is central to our operating communities.

Thanks to hard work by all of our staff and support from City Fresh, we were able to transition bases without interrupting our weekly market schedule. We have a whole new set of challenges to work through, but we love our new space. We are learning how to share space and work in tandem with new neighbors, and we’re already seeing our operations become more efficient. 69 Shirley St. is already beginning to feel like home!

Blog / This is how we roll: New Base of Operations

This is how we roll: Location development

Blog / This is how we roll: Location development

Now that Fresh Truck has been on the road for a few years we get a lot of questions about how we make decisions about how to operate the market and design our programs. To answer these questions and many more we are starting a blog series called ‘This is how we roll’. This month we will cover how we develop our Weekly Market schedule.

Fresh Truck increases access to healthy food by operating a year-round Weekly Mobile Market program across low-income communities in Boston. The market serves the same location at the same time each week carrying around 40 different fresh, nutritious, affordably priced food items. Over the past 4 years, we have learned a lot about what it takes to establish a strong Weekly Market site. As a result, we have developed a framework for location development that ensures our market is serving the right people at the right time and location that is most convenient for them. 

  • Partnerships – What organizations can we work with in the neighborhood?
    • Working with the right partners can make all the difference. Nearly all of our Weekly Market locations are developed in partnership with organizations that are invested in keeping families and seniors healthy. Our strongest partners are health centers, housing developments, and other social service agencies.
    • Market support. Our partners often provide wrap-around support for the market including translation help, indoor waiting areas during colder weather and blocking off a parking space for the market. In advance of establishing the location, we work with partners to agree on expectations for ongoing market support.
    • The more the merrier. Our most successful market locations are partnered with four or more nearby community organizations who support the infrastructure and drive potential shoppers to the market.
  • Parking spot – Where should the market be positioned so that it is accessible and visible to the most people?
    • Secure a spot. Parking is the most obvious requirement for having a mobile market site but can occasionally be overlooked when it comes to logistics. A partner-owned parking lot is by far the best option but at several of our locations, we rely on our partners to put out cones in the morning or to make use of their load/unload zones.
    • Visibility is critical. We find that most of our first-time shoppers were within eyeshot of the market when they decided to come check it out. We work hard to secure parking spots that are highly visible from the street, even moving a few yards can make a big difference.
    • Build on existing habits. It is hard to get people to break from their busy routines so we try to be in places they are already going on a daily or weekly basis. This can mean parking in front of after-school programs at pick-up times or outside of a drug store so families only have to make one trip.
  • Outreach – Who is nearby the location and how can we best reach them?
    • Pound the pavement. We know it’s old school, but distributing flyers and having face-to-face conversations are the best way to get the word out about a new market location.
    • Activate your advocates. We work hard to delight all of our shoppers and make sure shopping at Fresh Truck an experience worth telling their friends about. Several of our shoppers are excited to go a step further and conduct outreach for Fresh Truck within their neighborhood. We empower our advocates by setting them up with Fresh Truck swag, flyers and coupons to distribute to their friends and neighbors.
Fresh Truck Weekly Market Locations

Blog / This is how we roll: Location development

This is how we roll: Inventory

Blog / This is how we roll: Inventory

Now that Fresh Truck has been on the road for a few years we get a lot of questions about how we make decisions about how to operate the market and design our programs. To answer these questions and many more we are starting a blog series called ‘This is how we roll’. This month we will start with how we decide what food to carry at the market.

Providing Fresh Truck shoppers a consistent variety of high-quality options is an essential part of our mission. We have a mobile operation which means our market drives across Boston in a vehicle with a limited retail display and even smaller storage. Unlike typical a grocery store (or even corner store), we don’t have a back stock area to store food and replenish items when we run out. For these reasons, we are diligent about selecting what we items we stock and how much we need to carry in order to best serve our shoppers.
In general, our inventory decisions are driven by feedback from our shoppers and the sales data we collect on a daily basis, but we there are also a few key insights that we consider:

  • Affordability – Can we offer this item at a price point that is accessible to our shoppers?
    • We choose to sell our food at the wholesale price we buy it for. This keeps our prices low and reduces barriers for families seeking out healthy, affordable food options.
    • Produce prices fluctuate with the season. Items like avocados, berries, and corn have short or inconsistent growing season can double or triple in price at different times of the year. Larger grocery operations are able to contract buy these products resulting in more stable pricing, but we will only carry them if they provide good value to our shoppers.
  • Nutritional value – Does this item provide nutritional value? Is it something we should eat more of?
    • We are always looking to carry fresh and culturally relevant food items that are delicious and provide the nutrients that we all need to lead healthy lives. However, it is not always a zero-sum equation that leads us to a strict definition of what is ‘healthiest’. We often provide options that meet people where they’re at when it comes to how they shop, cook and eat.
    • Late last summer we installed a refrigerator on the bus and were able to begin testing new items. One interesting outcome was carrying sparkling water. While it is not very nutrient dense it was really well received by our shoppers who were working to cut down on their soda consumption.
  • Space constraints – Does it take up a lot of space?
    • Space is more of a zero-sum equation. If we carry one item that takes up a lot of space it often means we have to discontinue another item to make room.
    • Watermelon is an item we get a lot of requests for. Carrying whole watermelons takes up so much space! To store enough watermelons we have to remove 2-3 items in its place. With our refrigerator, we hope to pilot pre-cut melons, which can save a lot of space, and provide a more convenient option for our shoppers.


Have another question about Fresh Truck and how our programs work? Leave it in the comments!

Blog / This is how we roll: Inventory