Mobile Food Market set to launch in East and North Preston
Transit bus will also visit north-end Halifax, Fairview and Spryfield
A food market on wheels is getting set to launch this month in five communities in the Halifax region.
The Mobile Food Market is a Halifax Transit bus that will be fitted with containers to sell fresh fruit and vegetables in areas where it's hard to access healthy food.
"I think there's a lot of excitement in the community of East Preston about the mobile market," said Wanda Thomas Bernard, a professor in Dalhousie's school of social work and a community member in East Preston.
"We've been working collectively to really make it happen. I believe there's a lot of enthusiasm."
Bernard says the community has been trying to get the word out to young people, families and senior citizens, and to make it easier for them to use the service.
"In East Preston we're even offering transportation for people who need to get to the recreation centre where the bus will be stopping," she said.
The bus itself is also being prepared.
"It's in fabrication right now," said Jonathan Mandaville, a Halifax architect with Passage Studio, who helped design the wooden and plastic containers that will hold the food.
"Once it's all fabricated, then it's just the installation and that should happen on the day."
The market will launch on May 14 in East and North Preston, and on May 21 in north-end Halifax, Fairview, and Spryfield. The communities are identified as "food deserts" because residents find it difficult to get back and forth to grocery stores.
"Fresh produce at affordable cost that's actually accessible for people is just not possible in East Preston or North Preston," said Bernard.
"There are no supermarkets in those communities, there are no farm markets in those communities. Many people don't have transportation."
The bus will travel between the Halifax and Dartmouth-area stops on alternate weeks. The pilot project will last for 21 weeks.
Turning a bus into a market
To turn the bus into a market, plywood boxes will clip onto the bus seats. The boxes will be removable so the bus can return to regular duties on non-market days.
"Those boxes are painted, and they all connect together and are hooked onto the seats. So effectively each bus seat then has a storage space for a different fruit or vegetable," Mandeville said.
Replaceable plastic bins are set into the larger wooden boxes.
"As the bus travels around to different communities, the boxes will stay on the seats but you can take out a plastic bin that will have radishes in it for one community. Once those run out and people buy them, another plastic bin that's ready with radishes can be re-inserted for the next community," he said.
Mandeville said he has designed projects with removable components before, but this is the first time his firm has designed anything around food.
The Mobile Food Market is a partnership between the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the Ecology Action Centre and the mayor's office.