Thunder Bay

'Grocery bus' pilot takes aim at food insecurity on campus

Getting healthy groceries should be a little easier for students at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. over the next month, at least when it comes to transportation.

The bus will run from Lakehead university, to two grocery stores and the country market

The grocery bus will take students to Walmart, Superstore and the Thunder Bay Country Market. (Katherine Holland/CBC)

Getting healthy groceries should be a little easier for students at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. over the next month, at least when it comes to transportation. 

Starting Nov. 10, students will be offered a free weekly "grocery bus" service that will take them straight from the school, to two grocery stores and the Thunder Bay Country Market.

The pilot project is all about addressing food insecurity for students, said Victoria Pullia, intern with the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy.

"The pilot was created in direct response to the need that we saw among the student population just to increase physical access to healthy and culturally acceptable food," she said. 

The bus will pick up students from both the main university campus, and the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law building, and will run in a loop to the three destinations. 

Alternative to transit trips

Although all Lakehead University students receive a city transit pass paid for through student fees, Pullia said they still felt that access to a dedicated grocery bus service would help students.

"Sometimes ... it's difficult to schedule [transit trips] around class times, and then also bringing a bunch of bags on city transit is difficult and then you have to wait outside in the cold," she said. "So we're just going to try and see if this really works and increases student's food access, especially during the winter months." 

Students are already showing considerable interest, she said, adding that some also expressed interest in easier access to local food in particular. 

The project is being run by the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy, along with the Students Feeding Change project, which is run through the organization Meal Exchange Canada. They're also partnering with the Lakehead University Student Union.

Students who take part in the pilot will be asked to fill out a survey to help the organizers assess the pilot, and if it's deemed a success, it may continue. For now, trips are scheduled on Nov. 10, 14, 24 and Dec. 1.