Business Owner Plans Produce Truck to Serve Louisville Food Deserts

The owner of a store that sells local fruits and vegetables in Louisville is raising money to bring his products to areas of the city that don’t have easy access to fresh produce.

Root Cellar owner Ron Smith launched his campaign on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter. He already owns stores in Old Louisville and Germantown, but now he has plans for a mobile store.

Smith is trying to raise $10,000 to start what he’s calling the Root Mobile—a mobile produce truck that runs on vegetable oil and will travel to Louisville’s food deserts to sell local fruits and vegetables. He’s already got the vehicle—a small bus, formerly owned by TARC—and is raising the money to outfit it with freezers and produce cases, as well as equip it to run on used vegetable oil.

Smith says the project fits in perfectly with the Root Cellar’s philosophy.

“Part of our secondary mission is to try to reach out and transform food deserts,” he said. “So we want to bring food to areas in the community that have limited access to fresh, local food.”

But the Root Mobile isn’t a purely philanthropic venture. It’s business. Smith sees a need in some neighborhoods that he’d like the Root Cellar to fill.

“There are people in neighborhoods in the West End that want fresh local food,” he said. “So, when people are hamstringed by transportation and access, the best thing to do is take it right to them. So, a mobile food market is a way to do that in an immediate sense.”

The demand for local food was quantified in a study released in January, sponsored by non-profit Seed Capital Kentucky. According to the study, the demand for local food in Louisville is greater than the supply and crosses all age and socioeconomic lines.

Smith says the Root Mobile isn’t a permanent solution to the city’s food desert issues, but he hopes to raise awareness about local food through the project. And he also plans on scouting out locations in West Louisville for a third stationary store.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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