New Refrigerated Box Truck Unveiled 

Worcester, Massachusetts—On Monday, May 8, the Worcester Regional Food Hub held a press conference at North High School in Worcester to announce the awarding of a $500,075 grant from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. The event also marked the official unveiling of a new, refrigerated box truck and a new Food Hub logo created by an Assumption College graphic design student.

The Worcester Regional Food Hub is a collaborative effort between the Regional Environmental   Council of Central Massachusetts (REC) and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, made possible by the support of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. The Food Hub fuses these partner organizations’ respective missions to increase healthy, local food consumption and recruit, retain, and incubate local food entrepreneurs to build healthy communities with sustainable food sources for all. The project is in its third year of grant funding from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts.

One goal of the Food Hub is to aggregate produce from local farms then distribute it to local institutions such as the Worcester Public Schools. The new refrigerated truck, purchased for the Worcester County Food Bank, a Food Hub partner managing trucking, logistics, and warehousing for the project, helps make this a reality. On Monday, the new truck delivered bushels of fresh apples from Carlson Farms in Harvard and Bolton Orchards to the Worcester Public Schools.

“It has long been a passion of mine for students to get healthy food and to be exposed to healthy eating, not only during the school day, but also to educate them so that when they go back to their families, they talk about healthy eating,” said the superintendent of Worcester Public Schools, Maureen Binienda.

Adding to this, Jan Yost, CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, said, “We commend the Worcester Public Schools for serving apples and other healthy, locally grown food to our children. Food is fundamental to sustain life and to live a healthy life. Increasingly, more of us want to eat fresh and healthy food. It is for these reasons that The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts is supporting the development of the Worcester Regional Food Hub.”

“Often, limited access to fresh and culturally relevant ingredients can limit menu development,” said director of nutrition of Worcester Public Schools, Donna Lombardi. “Working the Food Hub into our procurement system has allowed us to gain access to a variety of fresh commodities, such as apples directly from local orchards, such as Carlson Farms.”

“We’ve always supported the farm to school project but we weren’t set up for school deliveries,” said Frank Carlson of Carlson Farms. “The school program is another outlet for our apples and the Food Hub is a direct outlet for us.”

Another goal of the Food Hub is to encourage the development of food-based businesses. A commercial kitchen incubator located at the Worcester County Food Bank helps budding entrepreneurs take a recipe from idea to reality. The Food Hub supports their goals by providing access to a licensed commercial kitchen, fostering a network of like-minded individuals, and leveraging the Chamber’s business resources.

“The guiding principle we use to organize our work at the Chamber is: recruit, retain, and incubate and these words fit exactly with the Chamber’s role in the Food Hub incubator.” said Timothy P. Murray, co-director of the Food Hub and president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We help to further develop Worcester’s food culture by encouraging those with an idea to use the commercial kitchen and support these existing and start-up food businesses by providing infrastructure and other resources. Worcester’s ‘foodie’ community has been transformational for our city and this partnership will do even more to continue this momentum.”

REC has long-focused on food justice and improving access to healthy foods through community gardens, advocacy, and its mobile farmer’s markets. This partnership with the Chamber represents a new model for REC.

“The Food Hub is designed to bolster a robust and equitable regional food system by providing access to healthy local food and food based livelihoods throughout greater Worcester across differences of culture and income,” said Steve Fischer, co-director of the Food Hub and executive director of REC.

Executive director of the Worcester County Food Bank, Jean McMurray mirrored this by saying, “We are excited about the Food Hub’s potential for growth all around, in the number of food entrepreneurs using the kitchen and the number of local farmers supplying fresh produce, as well as the number of institutions purchasing the produce.”

“We hope that this unique partnership will prove to be a successful model for other regions to duplicate in their respective communities,” stated Tim Murray.