Fort Worth

Fort Worth appears close to allowing mobile fresh food vendors in residential areas

Mobile produce trucks like this one in Memphis, Tenn., could soon be seen in Fort Worth.
Mobile produce trucks like this one in Memphis, Tenn., could soon be seen in Fort Worth. Courtesy Green Machine

Getting fresh produce and fruits into underserved Fort Worth neighborhoods is on the horizon.

Rather than seeing an ice cream cart being pushed down the sidewalk, residents could start seeing squash, lettuce and bananas rolling by.

City staffers — working with groups including Healthy Tarrant County Collaboration, Tarrant County Food Policy Council and the Blue Zones project — are working on amendments to city ordinances and codes regulating privately owned and operated mobile food vendors and pushcarts. Currently, produce can be sold from both types of units, but only in nonresidential areas.

The amendments are also being sought to support an American Planning Association grant to Healthy Tarrant County Collaboration to improve access to fresh local food in three southeast Fort Worth ZIP codes.

Pockets of the city have been labeled “food deserts,” meaning areas where residents don’t have access to affordable, healthy food, including produce and fruit. Often, the areas lack grocery stores.

Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray, whose district includes southeast Fort Worth, said the fresh, mobile market concept will open opportunities for vendors and for consumers who will be able to buy food “in a way they’ve never been able to do so before.”

“This is one of the ways to put a spin on healthy living,” Gray said.

City development officials said they expect vendors to be on the streets soon after the zoning and code changes take effect.

“We want to open up all the options,” said Jocelyn Murphy, the city’s planning manager. “If people can’t get to healthy food, let’s get it them.”

Fort Worth would join a growing number of cities allowing fresh produce sales in residential neighborhoods, including Toronto, New York City, Boston, Memphis and Los Angeles.

Last year, Chicago began providing out-of-service city buses that are retrofitted by vendors to bring locally grown fruits and vegetables to the city’s south and west sides. The city is paying for fuel and maintenance of the buses.

Fresh market vendor category

The amendments would establish a new fresh market mobile vendor category and be designed to remove the barriers of getting fresh produce and fruits into the neighborhoods. To qualify for a permit, vendors’ inventory would have to be least 75 percent produce and fruit.

The ordinance will allow for fresh produce sales in residential areas on property used for nonresidential purposes, such as schools and churches. They would not be allowed on vacant lots. Vendors would be allowed on vacant lots in nonresidential areas only with permission of the property owner. There will be limits on the number of vendors allowed on the property.

Also under proposed amendments, vendors could stay in place for less than an hour or for functions as an on-street vendor, much like ice cream trucks.

Neighborhood associations will get to weigh in before the amendments are considered by the Zoning Commission and the City Council. That could happen as early as March 1, according to a city report.

Suzanne Duda, vice president of Blue Zones Fort Worth, an experimental program that aims to improve the health and well-being in the city, said the zoning proposal “has a lot of potential.”

“The Blue Zones project is all about making healthy choices easier,” Duda said.