Volunteers in WIRED competition make a positive change for Tallahassee communities

Some volunteers and people of the community enjoying ice cream in front of the Hucksters Mobile Market.
Amari Godwin | The Famuan

A hand full of people from different communities in Tallahassee came together as one to pitch possible solutions to sustainability problems that many cities and states face today, food waste and food deserts.

As an incubator, Domi Station was invited to participate in a national pitch competition hosted by Gentleman Jack Double Mellowed Tennessee Whiskey and WIRED brand lab. Although members who made up the team for the competition were not a part of Domi Station, they provided the resources. Domi hosted a information session Jan. 24 inviting members from the community to be a part of the competition.

Five of 40 stuck around to execute a plan just days after the info session. One of the five volunteers, Brittany Gress heard about the info session on Facebook and immediately wanted to be a part of it.

“We were concerned with addressing it in a way that was positive and brought positive attention to the issue, but also didn't want to discriminate,” Gress said.

After brainstorming for hours, the volunteers finally decided on a food truck. Their goals for the food truck was to cater and sell fresh produce and other healthy foods to underserved communities where food swamps and deserts exist, targeting areas who face risks of obesity and high blood pressure. The food truck will deliver fresh produce to these neighborhoods and offer residents to use their SNAP benefits to purchase the food items.

One specific community that the team wanted to focus on was the Frenchtown area. Frenchtown is a historic African-American neighborhood with the largest elderly population in Tallahassee.

Tabitha Frazier, a member of the team wanted to assist and pay homage to historic communities.

“Historically there were a lot of black farmers and produce stores wouldn’t buy their produce so they would go to neighborhoods where they were welcomed, often African-American communities and sell fruits and vegetables,” Frazier said. “They were called ‘Hucksters’ so we decided to name the food truck ‘Hucksters Mobile Market.’”

The slogan for the Hucksters Mobile Market is“Health on Wheels,” also allowing farmers to come on board and sell their produce.

According to the National Resource Defense Council website, about 40 percent of landfill waste is food waste, and many businesses and hotels throw out leftover food at the end of the day.

Although there are plenty of food pantries in Tallahassee such as Second Harvest, Lake Jackson Pantry, and the Allen Outreach center, in order to get food items from them, transportation to and from the food banks are required.

Jessie Taylor, another volunteer wanted the Hucksters Mobile Market to be something they could be proud of.

“We thought about a cool ice cream truck style with a carrot on top that's really friendly and have music playing while we drive around neighborhoods. We wanted it to be fun,” Taylor said.

Tallahassee Food Network’s and Florida A&M University Sustainability Institute’s Bakari McClendon, who has a background in community development reflected on why it was so important to have Hucksters Mobile Market.

“Huckster meets that need of going from where there is supply to the demand. With it being a mobile market, it is also helpful to address the issue of transportation a lot of folks don’t own vehicles who are also facing food insecurity,” McClendon said. “Even if there is a grocery store that is two miles away, most do their purchases on a weekly basis, hauling groceries on Ubers and buses, whereas Huckster can get the food closer to the destination which is what we’re targeting.”

Other competing cities included Oakland, Philly, Denver, Houston, Detroit, and Atlanta. Each team had about a month to come up with their solution and submit a video showing how their plan could solve sustainability issues.

All teams have a chance of winning $10,000, a interview, and photoshoot with a WIRED brand lab editor on Wired.com and a special reception with actor Adrian Grenier.

For more information, updates and voting visit www.wired.com/pitchdistilled. The voting time period will take place from March 15-28, and the winner of the competition will be announced on March 29.