A Mobile Refrigeration Solution
The Delta Christian Community Food Pantry (DCCFP) has served the communities of Byron, Knighten and Bethel Island by bringing food to them with food distribution every Tuesday. Keeping items like meat, dairy and eggs cold has always been a challenge. One solution that was used was styrofoam ice chests. This solution has its limitations and was not viewed as long term due to increased volumes and the inability to control temperature.
The DCCFP became aware of a Agency Enhancement grant through the Contra Costa Food Bank. The submission by the DCCFP was for $27K for (1) refrigerated trailer and (1) enclosed cargo trailer. The grant was awarded to DCCFP for the amount of $24K. After internal discussions, the purchase of a refrigerated trailer was not viewed as the best solution long term.
What was preferred was a small van with one or many refrigerated devices. Also, the focus shifted to only the refrigerated solution with the enclosed cargo trailer deferred to a later time.
Larger vans were eliminated from consideration due to price points and smaller vans were viewed as viable due to cargo capacities, greater fuel efficiency and market proven. Two models were under consideration: the Dodge Ram Promaster City Cargo and the Ford Transit Connect Cargo.
The small van market was impacted by supply chain disruptions due to COVID. Dealers could not guarantee delivery of a new vehicle and prices were going up with dealer markups. So, focus then shifted to a used small van around the $24k price point. Search engines like CarMax, CarGurus, AutoTrader, CarFax, Edmunds and Craigslist were used to identify potential vehicles and price points. From Craigslist, a dealer in Rocklin, CA, Cars R Us (www.carsrusrocklin.com) was identified as having multiple vans that would be potential fits. The majority of the vehicles in their inventory were former AT&T Directv fleet vans with roof racks and internal shelving systems on the Ford Transit Connect cargo platform. In late June an appointment was set with Mike at Cars R Us with many vans having come in earlier that week. The van with the fewest miles was test driven. The listed price was $25,999 but after negotiating with Mike and letting him know our grant award was $24K and that our intended use for a food pantry, he agreed to a $23,999 price before taxes and fees. The selected van was a white 2016 Ford Transit Connect cargo with 65K miles on it. The roof rack and inside shelving system were removed to prepare it for its future intended use.
The DCCFP executive team decided that they wanted a graphics wrap on the exterior. The initial quote from Clay at Signpro in Brentwood was $2800 for a vehicle wrap. Since we had worked with them before and they had our graphics, it didn’t take long to schedule the install. Because it was not a full wrap but rather large graphics the final price was $1300.
Concurrently, various refrigeration options were being evaluated. Some of these included Iceco (www.icecofreezer.com) and Cooler Ice Cube (www.coolericecube.com). Both of these were viable but in a conversation with Cooler Ice Cube out of Florida their solution was ruled out. Since their solution was manufactured in China, they couldn’t guarantee delivery or a price point ($9K originally to >$18K, shipping costs of 300lb from Florida to CA,).
In watching a YouTube video, the recommendation was to use a freezer over a refrigerator because of the greater insulation. In taking internal van measurements, a 7 cubic ft. chest freezer became a viable solution. The Iceco solutions were ruled out due to price to capacity comparisons. The decision was made to go with the Hotpoint 7 cubic ft. chest freezer (Item #4103330/Model #HHM7SRWW). Although the list price was $249, Lowe’s management discounted it $50 since the intended use was the local food pantry.
Next was deciding how to power the freezer unit. The van came with a power inverter in the cargo area that could be controlled from the dash. In a test, it was ruled out since the power indicator on the freezer kept blinking, it was determined as undersized and was not ideal that the power source was coming from the battery that was used to start the van. Some of the requirements for a power source were portability, ability to recharge with solar, number of outputs especially AC outputs. The EcoFlow Delta $999 (www.ecoflow.com) was selected since it offered the most (6) AC outputs over its closest competitor. It was purchased during Amazon Prime days with 110W solar panels saving an additional $100.
Prior to use the EcoFlow Delta is powered up using household sources. On the day of use, the
EcoFlow is placed in the van and an hour prior to departure the freezer is plugged in. At St. Anne’s the freezer is loaded with items that will be distributed that day. At each stop, items are pulled from the freezer as needed. The EcoFlow provides enough power without recharging that it was determined that it could power an additional freezer. A second Hotpoint freezer was purchased at Lowe’s with the same discount applied.
This solution has exceeded our expectations for refrigerated capacity at price points that we didn’t think were reachable.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." - Galatians 6:9