Trendy food trucks roll across Silicon Valley in ever-greater numbers, hawking everything from Korean tacos to Cajun cuisine. But now there’s an effort afoot to bring a new kind of mobile food to the South Bay that aims to offer more than good things to eat.

Campbell’s Health Trust, a nonprofit health advocacy organization, received funding from Santa Clara County to study the feasibility of starting a Green Carts program in the South Bay. The program would bring mobile produce vendors to low-income neighborhoods that lack access to fresh fruit and vegetables. The Green Carts program started in New York City as part of a citywide effort to supply healthy food and jobs to poor neighborhoods.

Health Trust CEO Frederick Ferrer read an article about New York’s Green Carts program and thought it would be a natural for Santa Clara County. Silicon Valley’s need for better access to healthy food is great. According to data from Santa Clara Food System Alliance, in 2009, 38 percent of adults in Santa Clara County were overweight and 17 percent were obese. Data from 2007 showed that 25 percent of middle and high school students were either overweight or obese. It will take startup funds to get the program going, as well as changes in policy. Some cities prohibit food vendors near schools, community centers and hospitals in an effort to keep junk food at bay. But fresh produce is what we need more of and so policies will have to be rewritten to allow these vendors to set up shop.

The Health Trust’s green carts proposal was one of several projects included in the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s application for funding under the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program, which was part of the 2009 federal stimulus bill. The goal of CPPW is to change policies and implement best practices to fight tobacco use and obesity. The county won the federal grant and contracted with the Health Trust to manage programs that improve access of healthy foods to underserved areas of the county including community gardens, farmers’ markets and green carts. The total grant to the Health Trust was $350,000.

Rachel Poplack, director of healthy living for the Health Trust, was struck by the diversity of groups interested in the project. At an early planning meeting, she said the group around the table was represented by hospitals, city staffers, urban farmers, job training advocates and educators. “This project offers a unique opportunity to bring together a lot of different groups,” she said. And in what I see as an exciting aspect of the plan, Green Cart vendors could be supplied with homegrown produce from local community farms. Veggielution, a pioneering urban farm in San Jose’s Emma Prusch Park, has expressed interest in participating as a supplier to the program. The feasibility study should be completed in April with a pilot project to follow in June.