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New business brings farm-fresh foods to places where markets are scarce

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By: Bob Podurgiel, Post Gazette, September 7, 2015

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Photo credit: Rebecca Droke/Post Gazette

Read the full PG article here.

The owners of Farm Truck Foods were selling their wares in the heat last Friday in McKees Rocks, but they didn’t mind the sun beating down.

They were using the sun’s power to refrigerate the meats, eggs and dairy products they sell from their delivery truck.

Customers browsing the fresh produce on tables outside the truck couldn’t see the solar panels atop the vehicle even as the panels generated more than enough power to keep the refrigerators humming.

Without the unobtrusive solar system installed by ZeroFossil, a company in Munhall, Farm Truck Foods would need to run the truck’s diesel engine to power its cooling units, creating polluting exhaust in the process.

“We want to be sustainable and healthy in everything we do,” said Meredith Neel-Jurinko, who helped start Farm Truck Foods.

In addition to the health benefit, the solar array lowers fuel costs.

“Even when it’s overcast, the panels still generate power,” Ms. Neel-Jurinko said.

She started Farm Truck Foods with Michelle Lagree-Pendel when both women were working on their master’s degrees in business administration at Carlow University.

They submitted a proposal to the Idea Foundry, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that helps turn innovative ideas into new businesses, for a company that would bring fresh, local foods and produce to people “farm-market style” in neighborhoods where supermarkets are scarce or where residents lack transportation to get to food markets.

The Idea Foundry suggested the two join forces with Landon DePaulo, who had a similar idea and was working on a master’s degree in food studies at Chatham University.

The three received a $10,000 grant from the Idea Foundry and a $75,000 grant from the Neighborhood Allies program to cover startup costs.

Farm Truck Foods made its first stop June 6 at the Homewood Health Matters 5K and Health Expo.

Since then, the company has established weekly stops at places including the Rite Aid parking lot in McKees Rocks, the Kingsley Association in Larimer and Element Church in Millvale.

“We see what we do as an economic multiplier by helping local farms, the communities, and creating jobs,” Ms. Neel-Jurinko said.

Farm Truck Foods has only one delivery truck now, but plans are in the works to buy more trucks and expand service to towns in rural areas.

Ms. Neel-Jurinko, who lives in Beaver, said people in towns such as Aliquippa and Ambridge, where public transportation is limited, have difficulty getting to places to buy good, farm-fresh foods.

Specific times and dates for Farm Truck Foods stops can be found on its website: ftfpgh.com

Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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