On Wednesday, February 17, Emmet Moseley traveled from Burlington, VT to Hamilton to discuss how his unique food truck helps to combat food insecurity. Professor of Anthropology Chris Henke introduced Moseley’s lecture as part of an ongoing lecture series centered around the topic of food. The lecture took place in the Ho Science Center.
Moseley began his talk by introducing a key problem in food security: food deserts. A food desert is a place that lacks the food resources necessary to feed the nearby residents. Food deserts largely occur in impoverished areas, which means that those who don’t have access to transportation or who work low-paying jobs often have almost no access to food. Many Americans, Moseley explained, face specific barriers to food accessibility. One of these barriers is distance; poor Americans without access to transportation, such as personal vehicles, have an incredibly hard time transporting food to their homes.
Moseley used this explanation to transition to a description of his own food truck business, which attempts to solve the issue of food insecurity. If people are not able to get to the food, he argued, then one solution is to bring food to the people. He decided that the most practical way to do so would be by operating a mobile kitchen that would be able to bring food to areas where it is not readily available. He bought and equipped a food truck, then began his day-to-day operations in the summer of 2015. Operating out of a food truck provides the significant benefit of mobility that typical grocery stores lack, so Moseley is able to schedule days during which food-insecure individuals can visit a specified location and receive a free meal.
While many government programs have been established to address issues of food insecurity, Moseley approaches these issues as an independent entrepreneur. His goal is to demonstrate that he can both provide a public service and earn enough profit to run a sustainable business. While he is not financially supported by the government, he does receive a considerable amount of local support in the form of food and monetary donations.
First-year student Angelica Greco admired the dual nature of Moseley’s food truck business endeavour.
“I think it’s really cool that the good food truck operates as both a public service and private business by accepting snap benefits while also catering to paying customers. It seemed like the truck was tuned into the needs of both these groups of people,” Greco said.
Another key resource Moseley discussed is the relatively recent phenomenon of gleaning. Gleaners aim to gather fruits and vegetables that were deemed unfit for the market, usually because of their appearance. These fruits and vegetables are often left scattered on the ground following harvest and eventually decompose into the soil. Despite the superficial imperfections of such unused foods, they are perfectly edible and can be used by people like Moseley to provide meals to those who would otherwise go hungry.
According to Moseley, the experiment has been a success so far due in no small part to local engagement and support. Many volunteers have helped to cook and serve food in addition to the donations made by local residents. These donations have allowed him to keep meal prices affordable – about $10 per meal. Moseley uses the profits from his day-to-day business sales to provide meals to the food insecure. When asked what his largest expense was, he responded by discussing the upkeep costs associated with running a food truck – namely, gas.
When asked how he currently has plans to expand his business and run a fleet of vehicles, Moseley responded that his current goal was to find a way to make the business more profitable and, in effect, more effective at transporting food to where it needs to go.