When Matthew Fusco thinks of the mobile produce market at his school, he thinks of opportunity.
The Principal of Veterans’ Memorial Elementary School in Gloucester, MA has seen how improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables creates a thriving environment.
“It gives kids and families access to loads of fruits and vegetables that kids would not get,” he said. “I have seen students get the vegetables and fruit for their parents before walking home which is very gratifying.”
Market Truck Operated by The Open Door Food Pantry
Every other Friday, The Open Door food pantry brings its B-Model mobile produce market truck to Veterans’ Memorial Elementary. The mobile food truck was provided by The Farmers’ Truck and is one of many community services offered by The Open Door.
“Bringing the mobile market Farmers Truck to schools is a prime example of what the truck is meant to do: bring free, fresh produce directly to the places where people learn, work, live, and play,” says The Open Door President and CEO Julie LaFontaine. “It’s magical to see how excited students are to bite into a fresh apple or take home vegetables to their families. It creates a safe and welcoming place for kids to access nutritious food, without stigma.”
Students Excited When Truck Brings Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Principal Fusco says the mobile produce market program “is very impressive” and his students, who are ages 5 to 11 years old, get really excited when they see the colorful truck drop by their school. He notes that bananas, broccoli, and lettuce are the most popular food items.
“The kids really like it, especially when the truck is serving up a small snack as well. They like to try it out.”
Principal Fucso says the school staff also join in, which sets a great example.
“A considerable number of staff from Veterans’ get food off of the truck,” he said. “I think that this is very important in that it lifts any stigma that families may have about getting this food when they see the entire school community taking part in this.”
Mobile Market Program Brings Community Together
Principal Fusco says having a mobile produce market at the school adds to the focus on eating healthy. The school also has a robust gardening program run by the Backyard Growers and they make salads for students to eat at lunch.
He adds that since the COVID-19 pandemic, the school has become more than just a place of education. It’s also a community center to bring families together. With this in mind, having resources for healthy eating, and other community services is important.
“As principal, I know when a family has suffered a job loss or other difficult situation. My relationship with the food truck also gives me a relationship with The Open Door and therefore I can direct families to them with great confidence that their needs will be met. I think it is another piece in our arsenal to help families in need and improve their lives.”
Principal Fusco concluded that he would recommend mobile produce markets to other schools as a way to increase healthy food access.
“When I first became principal of Veterans’, I couldn’t believe such a program existed,” he said. “As soon as we could, myself and The Open Door came together during the pandemic to get it back up and running at the school. That signaled for me one of our first signs of normalcy and that eventually we would be getting back to normal at some point. The mobile market is a beautiful thing.”