What do physicians, fresh produce, and a retrofitted school bus have in common?
About Fresh, a company created by two Northeastern graduates who want to use food to improve the health of people who live in Boston.
Josh Trautwein and Annika Morgan stop in Dorchester, Roxbury, Mission Hill, and other neighborhoods in the city each week to give residents easy access to healthy food. They work out of a bus filled not with large, oversized seats, but plastic bins piled high with fresh fruit and vegetables that they sell at discount prices.
Many of the people who purchase produce at the mobile market live in neighborhoods that don’t have grocery stores nearby, says Morgan, who graduated from Northeastern in 2014 with a degree in business administration. Others who use the mobile market, called Fresh Truck, don’t have the financial means to buy groceries at a supermarket on a regular basis, she says.
“We’ve always been married to our mission: how can we improve health outcomes by increasing food access,” says Morgan, who teamed up with Trautwein to launch About Fresh in 2013.
As part of a program called Fresh Connect, physicians at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood provide Fresh Truck gift cards to people suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diseases that could be caused by a poor diet. The physicians also give gift cards to people in low-income households who don’t have reliable access to healthy food.
“Affordability and purchasing power are big barriers to households putting fresh food on the table,” Morgan says. “Eligible patients can take the card to Fresh Truck and go shopping that same day.”
Nearly 200 people have enrolled in the Fresh Connect program, which launched earlier this year. Morgan says she provides the hospital with data about the program, including who uses the gift card and what foods they buy.
And while it’s too early to draw any conclusions from the data, Morgan says that patients who have consistently purchased produce at Fresh Truck using the gift cards have experienced improvements in their health.
After Morgan and Trautwein launched Fresh Connect, they changed the name of their company from Fresh Truck to About Fresh.
Morgan turned to a design studio founded by two Northeastern graduates to help redesign the website.
“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel with Fresh Truck, but rather create something that both tied the programs back to a larger organization while giving it flexibility for extension,” says Brennan Caruthers, who co-founded Juno Design with Molly O’Neil in 2018. “It was more ‘how can we create a parent company brand that doesn’t overshadow the individual programs under it.’”
Morgan, Caruthers, and O’Neill met through Northeastern’s Mosaic network, which comprises 10 student-led organizations that help students and alumni create their own businesses. Morgan created About Fresh as a student in IDEA, the university’s student-run business accelerator, and later served as chief executive officer of the organization. Caruthers and O’Neil worked for Scout, the university’s student-led design studio, where they created apps, logos, and websites for startups in IDEA.
Morgan credits Northeastern for helping to shape the mission of About Fresh.
“The community within Northeastern entrepreneurship helped us grow About Fresh into what it is today, and it helped us develop a vision for the future,” Morgan says. “Those mindsets were refined at Northeastern, but it also gave us the networks to support our growth. It’s really a testament to what the Northeastern spirit is about.”