Archive for the ‘Green’ Category

Now that our cities streets are being frequented more often by taco trucks, and cupcake trucks, why not expect to start finding trucks with something really useful, like fresh fruit and vegetables?  Although not the typical food truck, we have found a truck to profile that was truly designed to help its community.

Experts call Detroit a food desert since more than half of its population must travel at twice as far to reach the nearest grocery store as they do to a fast-food restaurant or liquor store. Detroit’s limited public transportation makes it difficult for those without cars to get to farmers markets or suburban stores, and decades of population decline (from 1.8 million in the 1950s to half that now) have made most neighborhoods in the 138 square mile city too sparse to support corner produce stands.

Those who have studied the city state that people in developing countries have much better access to fresh produce than Detroit’s residents. The lack of fresh food has become a public health problem in Detroit. In a neighborhood which is has a ratio of 26 liquor stores to every grocery, a community group has found a way to sell fresh fruits and vegetables like ice cream. This group is taking a fresh approach to the problem and, it’s bearing fruit.

Five days a week, the Peaches & Greens truck winds its way through the streets as a loudspeaker plays R&B and puts out the call: “Nutritious, delicious. Brought right to you. We have green and red tomatoes, white and sweet potatoes. We have greens, corn on the cob and cabbage, too.” The truck is set up like a small market and brings affordable produce to families on public assistance, homebound seniors and others who cannot reach the well-stocked grocery chains in the suburbs.

Lisa Johanon, executive director of the nonprofit Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corp., which runs Peaches & Greens, started to investigate the idea of a mobile produce truck as a way to get fresh food into the kitchens of Detroit residents. After navigating her way through Craigslist, she was able to locate a used UPS truck for the low price of $5,000. With the help of volunteers and donations of paint, shelves and a table-top refrigerator, the vehicle, which once sported the UPS logo, was converted into a colorful collage of bananas and watermelons.

Their prices are very reasonable. A single banana sells for a quarter and an apple for 50 cents. Compare that to a $1 bag of potato chips or $1.50 can of pop, and it’s hard to argue with the truck’s cost and health benefits. “When kids don’t have a proper diet, their brains are sluggish and they don’t perform nearly as well at school. Buying an apple or an orange is a treat for kids because they are not used to having it. To them it is candy,” Johanon explained.

Photo from Carlos Osorio/AP

The truck’s route is divided into four quadrants, traveling from Interstate 75 to Linwood Avenue and from West Grand Boulevard to one mile into Highland Park. It runs from March thru December, since residents are reluctant to leave their homes during Michigan’s snowy winters. The truck is equipped with a handheld scanner to ring up purchases from food assistance recipients, who get funds transferred electronically onto a card used like a debit card. About half of its customers use food stamps.  “We’re in the process of getting approved by WIC, so people will be able to come with their WIC coupons.”

The truck operates Tuesdays through Saturdays and is stocked and driven by employees of Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation. Johanon purchases the inventory twice a week from two local sources: the Detroit Produce Terminal and Eastern Market, as well as maintains an urban garden where produce is grown and maintained by the groups volunteers.

The nonprofit organization that funds the truck, the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation, also runs a storefront where they offer cooking classes in addition to selling produce and other healthy staples like grains, beans and dairy products.  Together, these collective initiatives are trying to transform a city from a barren food desert into a community where the pounds of carrots and plums outnumber the pop cans, beer bottles and fast food items.

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One of a food truck owner’s regular expenses is fueling their vehicle. Most of the trucks on the road today have not switched over to electric or bio-diesel driven engines, and are still running on standard petroleum products. For those of you in the majority, attempting to cut fuel consumption can be a bit like dieting; your success depends on setting an attainable goal, implementing a plan to reach your goal, and then making sure you stick to your plan. Just as it is when you challenge yourself to lose those extra 10 to 20 pounds, improving your fuel consumption requires that you stay disciplined and in many cases, rework your everyday habits.

Although you have no control over tax rates or the actual fuel prices, we have provided a few steps you can take to help lower your overall fuel costs.

Be sure to have regular maintenance completed – You’ll use less fuel if you keep your vehicle tuned up. Don’t forget about your vehicle’s wheel alignment either, you won’t be able to maximize your gas mileage if the truck isn’t driving straight.

Don’t be a lead foot – As a rule of thumb, each mph above 55 reduces fuel efficiency by 0.1 mph. Not only will you save fuel and improve safety, but you will also avoid having to pay those pesky speeding tickets.

Improve your driving habits – An estimated 30% of fuel costs are determined by engine and truck speed, both of these areas are controlled by the driver. Continually revving and braking your truck will lower your gas mileage. One way to do this is to use the cruise control (if the vehicle has one installed) on the highway to help maintain a constant speed. Remember you are not in a drag race, there is no need to drive like a speed demon while you are on the roads.

Keep an eye on your tires – Maintain the correct inflation pressure. Although President Obama was mocked for this suggestion during his ’08 campaign, it is still solid advice you should heed.

Take the shortest route – This may sound obvious but it doesn’t always happen. Go to Google Maps and plan your route for the day. If you can, plan to avoid congested, high-traffic areas (not high foot-traffic) that continually are filled with traffic snarls and stop-and-go driving.

Pay less for fuel – Saving a penny or two per gallon really adds up. Gasbuddy.com can assist you in shopping around for the best prices in your area. Another way to achieve this is to read your owner’s manual to find out which type of gas the manufacturer recommends for your vehicle. There is no need to pay for premium if all that is required is regular.

Use your air conditioning less – We know many of you live in warmer climates, but air conditioning makes the truck use more gas, so shut it off when you can and instead, use the vents.

We hope this article gives you something to think about the next time you have to fill up or are out on the open road. Not only will you save yourself some money, but you will be doing your part to help out the environment.