There was a Star Tribune article in the paper this Wednesday titled “Eden Prairie proposes Live Well food truck” regarding our possible foray into the food truck business for the purpose of promoting healthy food options in our community.
Later that morning, I received an email from a City resident questioning whether we should venture into this particular line of business. I thought the questions that he asked were very good. I also thought the questions (and my answers) would make a good blog entry while providing a bit of background on this potential project.
1) What competency does the City have in the food business that would give the Council the confidence to invest tax dollars in this manner?
The City is currently in the food business through the café at the Community Center. In fact, we view the potential food truck as an outward expansion of that operation into our community. There are a number of events throughout our City such as sports tournaments whereby a mobile food truck could make healthy food options more accessible.
We do not intend to invest tax dollars with this potential project. We have a committee that intends to raise private funds to get this project off the ground. The plan is that the operations of the truck would fund itself. If it does not fund itself, we would most likely plan on exiting the business.
2) Do the constituents of Eden Prairie really want the City competing with other businesses that are run by dedicated professionals?
We do not want to compete with other businesses — we would welcome other food trucks in our City. In fact, we encourage other food vendors to be present at City events like the July 4 celebration. As of yet, there have not been any food trucks planning to offer healthy food options in our community.
3) What is the goal with this initiative? Are there ways to involve the private sector and avoid expanding government into areas that are traditionally driven by the free market?
The goal of the initiative is to further our City commitment to healthy eating and active living. In 2012, our City Council made Eden Prairie the second city in Minnesota to pass a resolution to be designated as a healthy eating and active living community. This was through the Twin Cities Obesity Prevention Coalition, whose mission is to provide leadership in mobilizing a community-based coalition of organizations, physicians and individuals who are committed to improving public health by advocating for healthy eating and active living strategies in metro-area communities.
One of our first projects in this area was the construction of an “edible playground” at Prairie View Elementary. It was built to teach children how food is produced and inspire kids to eat healthy and nutritious food. The next major project in this area would be the healthy food truck. With this new concept, we do plan to partner with Eden Prairie farmers. We hope that we can market and sell their products in the community. This could be a win-win for our local businesses and for our residents.
4) If the private sector doesn’t see a viable market and desire to invest in this initiative, why is it a good investment for Eden Prairie tax dollars?
Once again, we do not plan on this being an investment of City tax dollars. The City Council and the Mayor’s Health and Wellness Committee are currently of the opinion that improving access to healthy food is worth the time and energy.
5) What are your priorities? Seems like we have plenty of real government issues for the Council to focus on.
This is one of many City priorities.
It is very timely that you raise this question because at a recent State of the City address I touched on this very issue. I stated that health and wellness initiatives and public art programs can be important quality of life initiatives, but the City must still continue to focus on and deliver our core services such as police, fire, water, sewer and snowplowing. One of the reasons we feel that we have been ranked multiple times as at top 10 city in the country by Money Magazine is because we are able to succeed at providing the core services at a reasonable price, while also considering additional quality of life programs in partnership with non-profits and the private sector.