Facebook launches weekly produce truck in Menlo Park, East Palo Alto


Facebook is sponsoring a produce truck that will travel to locations in East Palo Alto and Belle Haven, and sell subsidized produce, starting Sunday, July 23, between 10 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.

The truck will be at St. Francis of Assisi Church in East Palo Alto (1425 Bay Road) from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the East Palo Alto Senior Center (560 Bell St.) from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Onetta Harris Community Center (100 Terminal Ave.) in Menlo Park from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m.

The truck will pick up food from local farmers and pay them for everything it takes, whether that food is sold or not. Whatever is not sold will be donated to local food pantries, according to Alex Gahagan, Facebook's global events, amenities & community engagement manager.

Produce will be seasonal, Ms. Gahagan said, and there will be recipe cards available for people to get ideas about what to cook with the ingredients. The food will cost less than it would at a normal farmers' market, she said.

Facebook had been running a farmers' market at its Menlo Park headquarters with a goal to make fresh produce available to residents in Facebook's adjacent neighborhoods of Belle Haven and East Palo Alto, Ms. Gahagan said. The market had good turnout from the broader region, but it was discontinued earlier this year. The company had difficulty in offering food assistance to eligible locals at the events, she said.

According to a produce truck flyer, people who are eligible for federal or state food assistance will receive discounts. A Facebook spokesperson clarified that people who receive CalFresh, Women Infants & Children (WIC) or social security benefits will get a 50 percent discount on their purchase, up to a $20 subsidy.

Facebook has contracted with the Concord-based nonprofit Fresh Approach to run the program through the first quarter of 2018, Ms. Gahagan said. Fresh Approach, which works to improve access to healthful food, runs the "mobile farmers' market" program called Freshest Cargo.

The area near Belle Haven and East Palo Alto is considered a food desert, she said, a term used to refer to places where residents lack access to affordable, nutritious food.

Facebook has proposed to build a grocery store as part of its planned 3.4 million square-foot mixed-use development on Willow Road; the plan was submitted to the city July 7. The initiatives are not connected, she said, but noted, "I think this will be telling and helpful for us to get information on what people want."

Facebook is also hosting five festivals on its campus that are open to the public this year. The next one is scheduled for Aug. 26 from noon to 7 p.m. and the event will have the theme of a county fair. The festivals are held at Facebook headquarters at 1 Hacker Way (parking lot 15) in Menlo Park.


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