Some of the innovation gang headed over to a local taco stand for lunch to enjoy the weather and much talked about experience by the local media of late. When we came back, I had an a-ha moment of why doesn’t Tulsa introduce some sort of traveling fruit and vegetable truck in our food deserts? Since I’ve been largely bereft of the blog over the past few months, I realized that Micah had already thought of this in his post New Oases in the Food Desert. You really can’t anything past this sharp set.
However, I still would like to elaborate on this concept by offering a potential fusion of the New York green cart concept, the traveling taco stand, and the bookmobile. In Micah’s post, he offers that the NYC carts work because the carts have virtually no overhead expense and the city has a high walking density. His question at the end of the post asks what incentives can we provide to expand the use of flexible, low-overhead options for bringing fresh produce to neighborhoods across Tulsa?
Tulsa does not have areas of high-walking density (quite the opposite) – but we do have a propensity towards traveling prepared food and a really excellent library bookmobile system. Before I go on, I would like to give credit to Micah for mentioning the book mobile and the quick idea of giving every child an apple with their books. Actually, we may be on to something.
Would it be so ludicrous to come up with a food mobile that stopped in certain areas of the City (low-income and/or food deserts) and sold fresh fruits and vegetables and maybe some dairy if refrigeration were available? Local grocery stores (i.e. Reasor’s) could invest in these types of trucks with their name on the side and volunteers could drive the trucks into selected neighborhoods on certain days of the week. Before you tell me that volunteers would be hard to come by, I’ll tell you that Meals on Wheels has over 2,500 volunteers that deliver about 1,000 meals in Tulsa everyday. One of the issues might be finding drivers with the right classed license but maybe that’s a hired employee of the grocery store partnership. Schedules for the food mobile might coincide with the book mobile route so that families can accomplish both tasks in one stop. The bookmobile already delivers within proximity of many of these food deserts and already has an established rapport in many of the communities.
Of course, all trucks would probably have to be set up to accept food stamps so I’m not sure how that would occur. Although Micah did mention in his post that there is a government-financed pilot program that will soon provide $1,000 all-weather wireless terminals so vendors can accept food-stamp debit cards. However, since most local grocery stores do accept food stamps, there must be a way to do it on the road with a wireless internet connection. The library book mobile has laptops with wireless and they’re able to do all their checking in and out. I might be totally naïve.
While we’re waiting for the food desert problem to be solved by brick and mortar stores in these locations, what do we in the mean time? The NYC Green Cart concept and the idea of traveling fruits and vegetables may not be such a bad idea in a place like Tulsa.