To bring fresh fruit and veggies to food deserts, turn old buses into mobile food markets

buses-converted-fruit-trucksA promising program in Toronto, Canada is bringing fruits and veggies to impoverished communities in an unusual way: through a grocery store on wheels. Called the Mobile Good Food Market, it’s a donated bus that was converted into a traveling supermarket and stocked with affordable fresh produce. It’s regularly driven throughout Toronto, particularly in “food desert” neighborhoods where supermarkets are scarce or hard to access.

The pilot program does face challenges, including financial sustainability, and it’s not meant to be the grand solution to people’s inadequate access to affordable, healthy, nutritious food. That said, the upsides of the pilot program have sparked media buzz and hopeful watching by nutrition and urban policy advocates. Furthermore, Debbie Field, the Executive Director of the organization that runs the Mobile Good Food Market, offered this broader rationale to Fast Company:

The biggest value of mobile markets, she says, might be in demonstrating that there is a demand for healthy food in even the poorest neighborhoods. “It’s not that low-income people aren’t interested,” Field says. “They will buy the food if we can get it there. What FoodShare is proving is that people will buy this food and what we have to do is figure out logistically how to get it into communities.”

The existence of food deserts in America is a complex problem that implicates a wide range of issues, including poverty, nutrition, urban development, racial equity, and transportation access. Solving it will take more than grocers on wheels, but the Mobile Good Food Market is an intriguing innovation worth adding to the menu of options. For more information, see “Bus Turned Food Market Feeds Residents In Toronto Food Deserts,” PSFK (2016); “Food Strategy Update: The Mobile Good Food Market,” Toronto Food Policy Council (2013); “Why Mobile Markets Aren’t Going To Solve The Problem Of Food Deserts,” Fast Company (2014); “Toronto mobile produce truck: fresh produce to poor areas,” Toronto Star (2012).