Health & Wellness

The Bus That Became a Food Store on Wheels

This mobile grocery store is on a mission to make healthy food accessible

Photo: iStock/AlexRaths.

A new non-profit in Edmonton and Calgary has a mission to make it possible for people in poor neighbourhoods to access affordable produce. Fresh Routes, a mobile grocery store on wheels, will visit 20 communities in Calgary and Edmonton each month, setting up markets everywhere it goes.

The model could help eradicate food deserts—neighbourhoods or towns where healthy food is often out of reach for the majority of low-income residents. Since items are purchased wholesale, produce sells for prices 40% to 60% lower than the market prices of their destinations. A similar project—FoodShare’s Mobile Good Food Market—has been operating in Toronto since 2013.

The company says its mission is to ensure that “everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food.” The first mobile store–a 1995 Calgary Transit bus–hit the road in early October.

“Canadians face a paradoxical situation where healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are out of economic and geographic reach for many, while those that are harmful to their health are cheap and plentiful,” states the company’s website. “We believe that food is vital to the health of individuals and communities, and that access to good, healthy, and affordable food is a basic human right.”

The company is also helping to reduce food waste by working in collaboration with the Calgary-based Leftovers Foundation, a company that takes unsold food headed to landfills and redirects it to food banks and other community organizations.

Fresh Routes is working with the cities of Calgary and Edmonton to map out the places that need the service the most. While intended for low-income residents, the company says anyone is encouraged to visit the markets. The extra revenue will reduce the company’s reliance on grants and help it reach more food deserts.

To find out more about the non-profit and the mobile market’s routes, visit the website.