Mobile grocery stores provides access to affordable, nutritious food in Alberta cities
TORONTO -- An innovative initiative in Calgary and Edmonton is providing residents in under-served communities with access to affordable and nutritious food thanks to its mobile grocery stores.
Developed in partnership with the City of Calgary and the Leftovers Foundation, which collects leftover food for social agencies, the Fresh Routes program began as a pilot project in Calgary in the fall of 2018 before it expanded to Edmonton in October.
In Calgary, the “grocery store on wheels” is housed in a retrofitted city bus that travels on more than 60 routes in 20 communities every month. At its dedicated stops, customers can shop for fresh fruit, produce, and other groceries at a reasonable price.
“We really wanted to bring in a model that would support bringing healthy, affordable food right to their doorstep,” Fresh Routes Co-founder Lourdes Juan told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.
To do this, the non-profit organization buys its products wholesale, then sells them in the community at a discounted rate, usually between 40 and 60 per cent cheaper than retail.
Juan explained that Fresh Routes is a social enterprise, which means all of the funds that come into the organization are reinvested back into the program so they can open up more markets.
“It’s really helped us to scale the organization from eight markets a month to 60, and opening our operations in Edmonton,” she said.
The Edmonton program, which launched Oct. 4, uses a refrigerated truck to transport groceries to different communities in need.
Juan said the organization targets “food deserts” or neighbourhoods with poor access to nutritious, affordable food.
“We’re looking at areas where there’s not a lot of transit, areas that don’t have a grocery store,” she said. “There are actually a lot of identified areas in Calgary and in Edmonton.”
Fresh Routes operates year-round with occasional pop-up markets held indoors during inclement weather.
Juan said they hope to grow the program nationally with plans to launch in Winnipeg next year and eventually in Toronto. She also said they’re eyeing a possible expansion into the U.S. one day.