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Civic Impact

FoodShare Toronto transforms a TTC bus into a mobile food market

While food markets are becoming ubiquitous in many parts of central Toronto, recent research conducted by United Way Toronto and Toronto Public Health suggests that many Toronto residents, especially those living in densely populated neighbourhoods in the inner suburbs, lack the same accessibility to affordable, fresh, and culturally appropriate food. 
In order to increase food options to under-serviced neighbourhoods, Toronto non-profit FoodShare teamed up with the City to transform a TTC bus into a mobile food market. The bus, donated by the TTC and transformed by FoodShare with the help of architects and designers, was officially unveiled at a launch event last week at Ryerson University.
While this is not the first time FoodShare has employed the concept of mobile food markets—in the past they’ve used their refrigerated food transporting trucks—this is the first time that they’ve had a vehicle designed specifically with a mobile market in mind. 
Not only does the retrofitted bus feature a retractable awning and exterior food boxes, it’s also spacious enough to allow customers to come inside during the colder months. 
"Last year we were very successful when we took one of our usual trucks and we just put a little tray in front of it so it could be used as a food truck in a parking lot," says Debbie Field, FoodShare executive director. "It worked really well in the spring and summer, but not once it got cold. We’re really excited with the bus because it means people can come inside in the winter."
While the exact seclude of the new bus is still being "ironed out," Field says the bus will be visiting so-called "food desserts," neighbourhoods in Toronto that lack access to healthy, affordable food. The bus will make stops in Toronto's inner suburbs, as well as four locations in the west end and four in the east.
The Mobile Food Market will not only offer Ontario fruits and vegetables, it will also feature what Field describes as "culturally appropriate" food items—food items geared towards the specific ethnic makeup of different Toronto neighbourhoods—as well as below average prices in order to make it affordable to financially restricted communities.
"FoodShare is trying to get this balance between wanting the project to at least pay for the full cost of food, but also be very understanding and sympathetic to the intense real poverty that exits in these neighborhoods," says Field. 
"Everybody in the city deserves to have access to the kind of food we're selling on that truck."
Writer: Katia Snukal
Source: Debbie Field, Executive Director, FoodShare
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