Starting a Mobile Sustainable Food Vendor Business

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Sustainable Food Vendor BusinessEconomic downturns have historically been times in which there are more startup businesses than usual.  This particular recession is a great time to start a green business.  One easy place to start, for someone without a great deal of startup capital or knowledge base, would be to start a mobile food vendor business.

Sometimes the bane of parents who learn that their kids are spending their lunch money on junk food from mobile food vendors, this sustainable food business concept is a simple one to go green with.  Providing healthy, portable food through a mobile cart or small vehicle is as easy as having fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, peaches, bananas, plums, bell peppers, carrots and figs, as well as some healthy entrees like veggie wraps, hummus wraps, and vegetarian cold cut sandwiches.  Vegetarian food has a much lower carbon footprint than meat and processed food, so you’re already on your way to owning a green business.  If you can sell some locally produced, organic food, terrific–even better.  If you can’t provide organics, you are still doing a great service by providing access to alternatives to junk food and fast food hamburgers.


One barrier to entry for this business is obtaining a permit from the municipality you are in.  In most places, there are a very limited number of these permits, and the waiting list can be long.

There will likely be increasing interest in making more permits available for healthier mobile food vendors, as was recently the case in New York, where the state concluded it was a great way to help get healthier foods into neighborhoods that typically don’t have access to them.  For instance, only 4% of East Harlem’s bodegas were found to have leafy green veggies, whereas 58% of the corner markets in the Upper East Side did.  As a result, New York passed an ordinance allowing for an additional 4,100 permits for mobile food vendors, with the specific restriction that they could only carry fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill).

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