Every big city has plenty of neighborhoods that are often ignored. Many low-income neighborhoods have residents who find it difficult to put food on their tables despite working full-time jobs or multiple jobs at once. In such places, having access to an affordable source of fresh vegetables and fruits is a godsend.
One good example is Old Meadow Lane in Lawrence Heights, Ontario. In that neighborhood, there are quite a few overpriced grocery chains. A low-income person can’t really get very far in those stores. And traveling to a more affordable place such as Metro is equally as impractical because the extra time and money spent commuting will cost what you’ve saved from the groceries’ prices.
Looking for “special discounts” is something a lot of people try to do in most overpriced grocery chains but that comes with its own drawbacks as well.
“By the time produce is on special there, the quality is so poor,” explains Afua Asantewaa of FoodShare Toronto. “If it’s not a discount grocery store like FreshCo or No Frills, they’re generally not accessible to the residents in the neighbourhoods we serve.”
Ms. Asantewaa has been looking for a solution for years now. As a coordinator of FoodShare’s Mobile and Good Food Markets her dream was to have a full-sized TTC bus (1) converted into a mobile produce market. Having a limited budget stopped that dream for years and they had to use a cube van instead.
All that changed, however, when the TTC donated a whole, working bus to FoodShare and LGA Architectural Partners Janna Levitt and Dean Goodman (2) jumped in to convert and redesign it pro bono.
“This is what we love and motivates us about architecture,” shared Mr. Goodman. “It’s not what the particular design is, but more about the critical issue: Can we use our skill to make our city and community a better place to live in.”
So, since the bus needed to function as a “food stand” one of its sides was entirely cut open and put on hinges so that it could open and create a huge gathering place.
“The design also offered the opportunity to shop from the inside in inclement weather,” Goodman adds. “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.”
And it worked – when parked and fully stocked, the bus was unrecognizable and looked nothing like a vehicle but as a stationary structure specially designed as a grocery store building.
All this culminated in an effective and efficient fresh food delivery service that can be as affordable as possible. Still, to bring even more affordable and fresh produce to even more poverty-stricken neighborhoods, FoodShare needs more help and funding (3). Currently, they manage to put the bus on the road twice per week but they want to do it more often and to more places.
Unless we get more funding,” Ms. Asantewaa concludes, “it’s not likely to happen.”