The Farmers’ Truck, the Moncton company that helps mobile food markets, is launching a pilot program in California that will help non-profits develop financially sustainable programs to alleviate food insecurity.
The company said over the weekend it had received funding from an anonymous impact investor in California who will back the pilot project. The Moncton company is now looking for three non-profits in California’s Central Valley that want to launch mobile markets and learn how they can survive.
If this pilot project proves successful, these food truck operations would be expanded throughout California and into Colorado and Arkansas.
“Mobile market operators need to consider everything from sourcing food, merchandising, fundraising, marketing, and building community partnerships, just to get started,” said Farmers’ Truck Co-Founder and CEO Frederic Laforge. “Our goal is to remove those barriers and empower these food security efforts both in Central Valley and all over North America.”
From its beginnings as a food truck in Moncton, The Farmers’ Truck has grown into a trans-continental social venture that sells specially customized trucks to non-profits. The charities use the trucks to distribute healthy groceries to food-insecure households and alleviate food deserts – areas where healthy food is not readily available.
In the pilot project, The Farmers’ Truck will provide three non-profit organizations with everything they need to launch their own mobile market, including a mobile market truck, operational funding, operational tools, and coaching.
The company said the project aims to address the three main challenges with mobile markets: lowering the barrier to entry; increasing financial sustainability; and measuring the social impact.
In an interview Tuesday, Laforge said these mobile food market operations have trouble surviving because they aim only to help people who cannot afford to buy their produce. His company is developing a model whereby some paying customers can sustain the operation and finance the charitable side.
“The goal of this operation is to make food accessible . . . and price is the No 1 concern for most people,” said Laforge. “The model we’re proposing, that applied in Moncton, is to engage the whole community so you can serve people with money, who can afford to pay for the food, and then still be able to help the people who really need help.”
The Farmers’ Truck not only manufactures the food trucks but also provides services like training and financial planning to these non-profits. The company has been in talks with the social impact investor for more than a year, and this person is interested in expanding the program if successful, said Laforge.
His company has now received orders for about 20 mobile food trucks, and he said the pandemic has only increased demand for the company’s services.
“I think that a lot of underlying issues with poverty, food access and inequality just bubbled up to the top and it is something we have to address,” he said.
He added that the expansion of the Farmers’ Truck model shows that social enterprises can help to solve these sorts of problems.
“A social enterprise out of New Brunswick can make it big,” he said. “You can be a social enterprise focusing on doing good and you can still do well. We’re proving that.”