The Madison Common Council on Tuesday cleared the remaining obstacle for Fresh Mobile, Fresh Madison Market owner Jeff Mauer's idea to bring fresh produce to city neighborhoods under-served by traditional grocery stores.
The Council approved a resolution that will allow for mobile grocery stores in the city.
"We're just gonna try to offer the really key components of a healthy diet, affordably," said Mauer. "And bring it to them so they don't have to go very far to get it."
Mauer says he has worked closely with the mayor's office and city government on his idea, which he says sprouted from his volunteer work with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, where he provided fresh fruit.
"It's amazing to watch the kids just devour that fruit," he said. "because they're so hungry for it. They're craving it in their diet."
He told us residents of the Allied Drive neighborhood asked him about opening a traditional store in that area, which has had no grocery store within easy walking distance since Cub Food closed its Verona Road location just south of the beltline in 2009.
Mauer says he looked into it, but he found opening a store in that neighborhood wasn't economically feasible. Instead, he's moving forward with his plan for the non-profit fresh mobile truck. It will be eight-feet wide and 45-feet long, filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products. And it will visit six Madison neighborhoods, stopping at each location twice each week.
"I think it's gonna get a tremendous response," said A.J. Kriha, Club Director for the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County Allied Family Center in the Allied Drive Neighborhood, one of the neighborhoods the truck will visit weekly. "Our families really need it. They've asked for it."
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the non-profit project is set for June 27th at the Allied Family Center, but the truck will deliver fresh food to five other neighborhoods: Meadowwood, Bridge-Lakepoint, Leopold, Owl Creek and Darbo-Worthington.
Mauer says he has been talking with people in those neighborhoods to figure out what types of fresh produce they would like to see.
"I don't want to be the one telling them what they should eat," he said.
But he does want to help people in those neighborhoods learn healthier ways to cook the foods he will supply.
Mauer has raised nearly $150,000 to buy the truck and trailer (which is 8 X 54 feet) and have it fitted to his needs. But once the non-profit program is running, he hopes it will be self-sustaining.
He estimates his costs for fuel, maintenance and employee payroll will be around $30,000/year, so he thinks he will be able to charge just above wholesale, keeping prices down for people in these neighborhoods.
"I wanna help kids get healthier foods," Mauer says. "They're gonna be better educated. They're gonna grow up healthier and stronger."
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