Improving access to healthy, fast-casual food
Cassandria Campbell, MCP ’11, traces her interest in food to her first summer job working with the Food Project on farms in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Roxbury, the Boston neighborhood where she grew up. “I really enjoyed that experience of seeing things grow,” she recalls, “and I appreciated how much change it was creating in Roxbury by bringing people together and turning vacant lots into productive urban farms.” It wasn’t until she moved back to Roxbury after graduate school that she decided to dive into the food industry full time by founding Fresh Food Generation—a company striving to make healthy food options more accessible.
It was while earning her master’s degree in urban planning development at MIT that Campbell was introduced to the growing movement of healthy, fast-casual food options. Her moment of clarity came one night as she was leaving the Roxbury YMCA and realized that the only dinner places nearby were “unhealthy” fast food restaurants, unlike those near MIT. “It just hit me. Fast food shouldn’t be your only option,” she says. “People are having lower-quality life experiences because of food options.”
To tackle the problem, she had the idea for a company that serves healthy, fast-casual, Caribbean-inspired meals made from locally sourced ingredients. Fresh Food Generation started as a food truck in Roxbury and nearby areas, hiring experienced chefs to develop menus. While the truck still operates, the company has since expanded its focus to catering, teaming up with organizations that wanted to serve healthier and more culturally relevant meals at their events.
Two weeks into the pandemic, Fresh Food Generation received a call from the Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation asking to work together to provide meals for people struggling with food insecurity. The company partnered with Mass General Brigham to send customized grocery boxes to Medicaid recipients with specific dietary needs. The company has also transitioned to home deliveries of prepared meals and has even begun shipping nationwide.
Recently, Fresh Food Generation debuted a menu inspired by New Orleans chef and civil rights activist Leah Chase. “It was really fun having food that is interactive with people. It becomes an experience—it becomes about storytelling,” Campbell says.
And in 2021, the company opened a permanent restaurant in Dorchester. “I really enjoy being able to provide people food with love, and to know that what I’m giving someone is going to taste good and is good for their bodies,” she says.