Envisioning Equity in Food Access
Meet Duane Perry, Founder, The Food Trust
25 years, 25 stories
In the early 1990s, very few people in Philadelphia — or anywhere in the country — were talking about healthy food access. But for Duane Perry, then-executive director of Reading Terminal Market Merchants’ Association, the topic weighed heavily on his mind.
Every day, Duane and his shoppers were surrounded by fresh produce and other healthy foods that filled the market, but many neighborhoods in the city did not have such resources. The Farmers’ Market Trust — predecessor to The Food Trust — was born in 1992 from a desire to change that. “It was about equity,” says Duane, who served as The Food Trust’s first executive director, from 1992 to 2006. “Communities should have access to farmers markets, supermarkets and grocery stores — places where they can buy fresh and healthy food. That’s just the way things should be.”
From the outset, the new organization dedicated itself to food access and nutrition education, beginning with bringing school field trips to Reading Terminal Market and developing outdoor produce markets that brought healthier options to the residents of several Philadelphia housing developments.
In the 25 years since, The Food Trust has grown significantly. From small farm stands, the organization went on to work with farmers markets, corner stores, supermarkets and mobile food vendors. From field trips, its nutrition education program expanded into schools and community centers, reaching everyone from infants to seniors. And from Philadelphia, the organization’s efforts have reached across the United States and beyond.
That growth is something Duane couldn’t have predicted in the early days: “I'm not sure that I had a vision for what the organization could become. We didn't think that in 25 years we'd be a national organization with 130+ people working in towns and states across the country. It’s pretty incredible how far we’ve come.”
Click here to read more about The Food Trust's roots at Reading Terminal Market.