(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
A new and different kind of food truck wants to make Dorchester’s Peabody Square home.
The vehicle, an unassuming white delivery truck with the words “Bell Tower Foods” painted across its side is a lot like the food trucks seen in the Financial District and around Boston, but with one big difference: it doesn’t sell cooked food.
The idea behind the grocery truck, developed by a group of Boston University Public Health students, aims to bring the supermarket to residents’ doorsteps and community gathering spaces, making buying fresh and healthy produce affordable and convenient.
Born out of a business competition run at Mount Sinai Hospital, where the group took second place, the grocery truck can bring food into communities where grocery stores aren’t all that convenient and the local markets don’t have wide selections.
“The idea was to create a food business to promote healthy eating,” said Sevan Chorluyan, 23, the principal owner of the truck. “We want to make shopping easier. We’re targeting places where people have limited access to the type of things we are selling.”
Armed with the basics, from butter and milk to sweet potatoes and bananas, the truck is able to offer the necessities for making a meal, while not directly competing with the supermarkets and other stores to help keep residents eating healthy and cooking at home.
“People know it’s important to eat healthy and we’re trying to address the practicality of that,” said Chorluyan, who graduated from BU in May. “It’s complimentary, it doesn’t compete with the super market and doesn’t replace the convince store. It is its own thing.”
Wednesday was the first time the truck ventured into Ashmont. The students have made trips to Roxbury, Mission Hill and the South End, working with local health centers to help serve their patients and community.
“Our hook is convenience,” said Chorluyan. “We’re testing to see if people will buy fresh produce from a truck.”
Those who walked by the truck Wednesday while it was parked along Dorchester Avenue, seemed amused and interested by the idea. Some stop and talked with the students, a few even picked up a few groceries for home.
“It’s interesting,” said Milton resident Mark Redmond as he purchased some sweet potatoes and limes. “It’s different than what I was expecting when I heard food truck. I’m not sure if it’s viable but I’m not sure how many of the stores around here sell fresh produce.”
Others passing by thought it would be a nice addition to the neighborhood, once the farmer’s market shuts down for the winter; the truck plans to be around all four seasons.
“It’s great and we need it around here,” said Errol Uys, an area resident. “This reminds me of the trucks you would see 50, 60-years ago. You have supermarkets but you can’t just step out to them you have to drive.”
The truck has only been on on the streets of Boston for little over a week. While the kinks still need to be worked out and a route determined, Chorluyan thinks the business can make a difference and really fill a void found in some of Boston’s urban neighborhoods, especially once it starts taking EBT, SNAP and other benefits.
“It’s hard to say what will be next. It’s coming in pieces, but I hope we will be fully operational in a month,” Chorluyan said. “The beauty is it’s not an expensive venture and it’s scalable.”
Chorluyan and his fellow students think the potential is there and so did some people who walked by the white truck as it waited along Dorchester Avenue with all of its offerings spread out.
“I think this can be a game changer for a lot of people,” said Dan Larner, executive director of the Saint Mark's Area Main Street. “If they stay then we will have fresh food available all year and this can become a new gathering spot for the community.”
(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)