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Get on the Bus: Serving Food Deserts with Mobile Grocery Stores
September 20, 2011
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Making healthy, affordable food available to people who live in so-called "food deserts" - lower-income industrialized areas where there are no grocery stores - is a major challenge. Many who live in these neighbourhoods simply don't have access to quality food. Without a car, making it to a grocery store that sells fresh goods at reasonable prices can be very difficult, even in a city like Toronto with public transit.

Other cities in Canada face food deserts as well - in a 2008 study conducted at the University of Western Ontario, researchers found that while Edmonton and Montreal did not have any food deserts per se, the east side of London, Ontario contained neighbourhoods where access to fresh food was scarce.

In the last few years, various designers and thinkers have put their minds to an alternative: sending the grocery store to the neighbourhoods where it's needed. The latest such solution comes from Seattle-based Stockbox Grocers.

Stockbox Grocers

The basic idea? Tuck a miniature market inside a reclaimed shipping container. Put the container in the parking lot of another existing business. And there you have it - a new grocery alternative in the middle of the desert.



Pocket Markets

In some parts of Vancouver, like the Victoria-Fraserview neighbourhood, low-income residents don't have access to fresh food. The Trout Lake Cedar Cottage food security network is trying to address the issue through community gardens, kitchens and workshops. And now, they're working on hosting "Pocket Markets" four times each month in various areas - roving farmers markets that bring fresh produce to areas where people need it.


Fresh Moves

Another idea for getting good groceries into food deserts: drive it there. Fresh Moves Mobile Market, created by Architecture for Humanity Chicago and Chicago-based nonprofit Food Desert Action, is a grocery store in a bus. The service also includes wellness checks and diabetes screenings, along with occasional cooking classes and educational courses held in partnership with local culinary schools.


Mobile Farmers Market

New Jersey is known as the Garden State, but there are still pockets where people can't get fresh food. The state Assembly passed a bill this summer calling for the creation of a network of Mobile Farmers Markets that will travel to underserved communities and sell fresh produce. There is no state funding attached to the project, so the organization relies on fundraising to pay for the service.



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