Fresh produce trucks are a go in Minneapolis

A mock-up of a City Kids Mobile Farmers Market truck outside a school in south Minneapolis.

Trucks selling chef-crafted wares are as common a sight as ice cream trucks, perhaps even more so downtown. Soon another breed of trucks will sell fresh produce direct to consumers.

The Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Betsy Hodges signed off Friday on rules that will allow mobile grocery trucks to operate in neighborhoods, some of which lack easy access to healthy food.

Urban Ventures is one of the groups that pushed for the new rules. Brian Noy is planning the nonprofit’s City Kids Mobile Farmers Market, which has one truck with plans to perhaps add another later.

“We really like the idea of creating an independent business that can collect and consolidate vegetables from multiple farmers and…then be able to serve multiple communities, whether it’s high rise senior centers or community centers,” Noy said, adding that they’ll “set up where there’s a need and a demand for produce.”

Mayor Hodges said in a statement that the grocery trucks’ focus on serving low-income communities is important: “Nutrition is an important part of equity, for people of all ages and for the community.”

There are some restrictions. The trucks can only sell from the parking lots of commercial, industrial or large residential units.  They can’t operate within 100 feet of a grocery store or farmers market without permission. And to ensure that the trucks keep their focus on providing healthy food, they’ve got to carry at least seven varieties of fresh fruit or vegetables. They can’t sell booze or tobacco. And non-food sales can only add up to 10 percent of the trucks’ goods.

Noy expects the cost to be comparable to farmers markets. As an educational component to the project, they plan to hold cooking demonstrations.

“We can not only provide access to healthy food but show them how to use it,” Noy said. “We all know that we should eat better and we all know vegetables are good for you, but it’s trying to create it in a way that you can see, with the time and tools you have.”

They’ll be stocking their trucks with produce from the program’s small urban gardens, supplemented by veggies, and perhaps cheese and meat, from Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, farms in the region. The City Kids Mobile Farmers Market plans stops in north and south Minneapolis, including at the Colin Powell Youth Leadership Center and Minneapolis Public Schools headquarters. If all goes well, the truck starts rolling by early June.

Urban Ventures isn’t the only group planning a grocery truck.  St. Paul-based Wilder Foundation is funding another under the name Twin Cities Mobile Market out of a converted Metro Transit bus. They’ve raised about half the funding to get it going.