Throughout the course of the pandemic, more families are facing the realities of not being able to put food on the table, but inside a converted school bus in Boston, they are working to get fresh produce to families in need wherever they may live.
As the CEO of About Fresh, Josh Tratuwein has tried to think outside the box when it comes to food insecurity.
"We’re trying to beat back those systems that cause food insecurity in the first place," Tratuwein said while standing inside a warehouse in Boston, Massachusetts.
The group Tratuwein founded is a nonprofit, but it's not a traditional food pantry. Instead of handing out food for free, the group offers it below wholesale value. This enables them to purchase quality produce that also meets the cultural diversity of the neighborhoods they serve.
"Really allowing people access to food that they’re connected to, that’s a part of their heritage," Tratuwein added.
The key component of the operation is the Fresh Bus, an old converted school bus that's been turned into a grocery store. The bus can take produce directly to underserved, economically challenged neighborhoods in the city of Boston.
And the concept is working.
Customers flock to the food bus, no matter where it goes. Right now, because of COVID, they can’t shop inside this grocery store on wheels, but it doesn’t matter.
Recently, the bus was parked outside the Thomas M. Menino YMCA in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood. Executive Director Kathryn Saunders watched as the street corner in front of the YMCA became a hot spot of activity when the bus pulled up.
"People can count on it. They trust it. In this last year, it was something that is certain and here every week," she said.
By some estimates, four out of five Americans are one paycheck away from needing to rely on a food bank. In the last year, nearly 42 million people in the country were facing food insecurity, a 20% increase since the start of the pandemic.
Alison Cohen with the group WhyHunger says communities need to start addressing the root of hunger issues.
"I think it’s admirable how much these organizations have risen to the occasion and need. But food banks can't solve hunger," she said.