This Tricked-Out Bus Is Bringing Organic Fruits and Veggies to Food Deserts

Toronto's Mobile Good Food Market is stocked with everything from kale to squash, and it rolls through low-income neighborhoods in the Canadian city.

(Photo: Facebook)

Nov 24, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Drive around the typical low-income community, and you’ll find fast-food joints and corner stores that are stocked with canned goods and candy bars. Grocery stores with shelves full of fresh kale and apples simply aren’t the norm. But thanks to a partnership among a nonprofit, an architecture firm, and local government offices, a retrofitted bus is bringing healthy fare to Toronto’s food deserts.

The Mobile Good Food Market truck is filled to the brim with organic fruits and veggies, and it regularly cruises through several Toronto neighborhoods that have limited access to affordable and high-quality foods. Poverty in the Canadian city has reached epidemic levels—29 percent of children in Toronto live in impoverished homes, and single parents with young children are one of the groups that FoodShare Toronto, the organization that helped come up with the idea for the truck, serves most.

The 25-year-old nonprofit delivers healthy food and runs nutrition education programs in Toronto’s underserved communities. Through consultation with local community activists, FoodShare Toronto, the Toronto Food Strategy, United Way Toronto, and the Food Policy Research figured out that eight neighborhoods could benefit from having an organic produce market. But instead of having to go through the lengthy time and effort to get permits for a farmers market, the coalition chose to put fruits and veggies on four wheels.

The Toronto Transit Commission donated a bus to the project, and local architecture firm LGA Architectural Planners retrofitted the vehicle so that it could carry produce instead of people. The architecture firm took out the seats and installed shelves that fold out. That enables staff members to create an appealing display of fruits and vegetables.

“Good food is beautiful when displayed well, so when we decided we wanted this to be a feature we worked out the mechanism so one person could fold out the shelves, restock as necessary and display the food so it was attractive," LGA's Dean Goodman told the Globe and Mail.

Shoppers can also go in the truck and choose among a bevy of organic options—anything from carrots and squash to oranges and pears might be available. Because the truck was previously a transit bus, it’s equipped to bring wheelchairs on board, making the market accessible to the disabled. While ending poverty and food deserts needs to be our priority, in the meantime, efforts like this truck are a creative and much needed solution.