What do spaghetti aglio e olio, sautéed fennel with garlic, heirloom tomato and feta salad, and a bing cherry mojito have in common? Besides the fact that their mere mention may be causing a mouth-watering effect at the moment, key ingredients for all of these fresh dishes can be found, along with recipes, through Vicki’s Fresh Food Movement. And although images of a colorful cornucopia of Colorado-grown seasonal fruits and vegetables may sound like a foodie’s dream, the season has thrown some curveballs at Vicki Renda, founder of the local fresh food delivery service.
Last month, while driving her refrigerated food truck up Norwood Hill, a motorcyclist speeding around the curvy road lost control, sliding beneath the back of Renda’s truck. Beyond the obvious distress caused by the accident itself, the incident resulted in extensive damage to the truck. Combined with nationwide backlogs for vehicle parts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of supply chains, it was going to be awhile before Renda’s truck, which she uses both to pick up and deliver her wholesome arsenal of organic produce, meats, dairy and other foodstuffs, was ready to go again.
Though the truck is now fixed and her farm-fresh delivery service is up and running, the past month was not exactly a relaxing break.
“There was nothing vacation-y about it,” said Renda, describing the sleeplessness of scrambling to find solutions. Meanwhile, due to the loss of her former pick-up location in Telluride stemming from complications of safely navigating the food services industry during a pandemic, Renda has contended with the struggle to find a location in the Town of Telluride that aligns with both the needs of customers, who often come by foot or bike, and the unique set of factors required by a fresh food delivery enterprise.
To comply with the regulations of her current location on a private commercial space behind The Butcher and Baker building, Renda is limited to distributing pre-paid, pre-ordered food. In other words, she cannot sell food or operate as a market by selling to interested passersbys.
While demand for grocery delivery services have increased as a result of the pandemic and helped her business along “in the right direction,” Renda acknowledged the challenges posed by no longer being at a high-visibility location and not being able to offer walkup sales.
“It puts a hole in my sales numbers,” she said. “I used to have maybe 15-plus people walk up in a two-hour window and ask for cards and ask how it worked, and now I’m lucky if I have one or two people that walk by, curious. It’s crazy how differently being a few feet off Main Street and parked behind a building affect foot traffic and how you’re noticed.”
Ultimately, Renda, who is searching for a long-term location solution, dreams of the possibility of a brick-and-mortar sustainable food cooperative for Telluride, where like-minded local businesses might benefit from a shared retail space. However, for a business like hers for which produce and perishables are her staple offerings, expensive rents create prohibitive overhead costs.
“Grocery stores take losses in their produce section,” she explained.
Despite the spring and summer of flux, Renda is not deterred, drawing on her passion for fresh food and her conviction that supporting local food production is a critical ingredient to a sustainable future.
“The farmers rely on me to help sell their food, they’re doing good things for the climate, and the money that people spend on the food stays in the region,” she noted. “The rewards of this work are plentiful, overwhelming, honestly. It makes a difference for the farmers, and it makes a difference for people’s health to have truly nutrient-dense food. I feel really deeply about the need for that, for people to overcome health issues, or avoid them. Making it a lifestyle and eating this way is just a benefit to everyone.”
When she first moved to Telluride in 2008 and began training for the Imogene Pass Run, her parallel journey into the world of nutrition led her to eye-opening realizations about industrial food production. This in turn led to a lifelong passion for fresh, nutritious food, something that she believes is the right of every person to access. To this end, the Fresh Food Movement purchases and supplies additional farm-fresh food with the help of donations to provide healthy, local food to the county’s food banks.
“Folks who are already struggling financially are now also struggling with their health because they’re eating nutrient-deficient food. I find it really important,” she said. “Food is fuel. Food is life.”