Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fighting Food Deserts in Toronto

Remember when I posted the video about Fresh Moves, the fresh food market inside of a bus that makes stops within the food deserts in Chicago? (In case you missed it, click here.) Well, it turns out that the Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC) wants to apply the same kind of solution to the problem of food deserts right here in Toronto, and I can't wait to see how well it turns out!

There are, sadly, many food deserts in Toronto. Parts of Scarborough, North Etobicoke, and North York contain neighbourhoods where people have to travel farther than 1.5 km to reach a supermarket. Unfortunately, these are low-income areas where residents don't typically own cars, can't afford to take a taxi, and have a difficult time accessing public transit (fewer routes, less frequent schedules). That's a little backwards, no? To make sure residents still have access to fresh produce, some folks have gotten into the habit of illegally selling fruits and veggies from vehicles, right on the street, in what looks like a quick and dirty drug deal. The goods are legal and healthy; the method of selling them isn't.

The alternative is clear: have the City run a mobile produce program that stays within the boundaries of the law. The TFPC wants to pilot this type of project in 2012, with the possibility of allowing entrepreneurs to make the deliveries - much like how a food truck program is launched by a municipal government, then run by a collection of street food vendors. One major difference between Chicago's Fresh Moves project and what we're likely to see here next year is the location of the mobile produce stands: they won't be on the street for safety reasons; the risk of vendors and consumers being struck by other vehicles is just too great. Clearly, there are many issues that must be considered, but I have a lot of faith in the Council and its ability to come up with workable solutions to the food security issues in this city. Stay tuned for the launch!

To read Sarah's Elton's article covering this story, including a brief history of the TFPC, click here.

Image of empty grocery cart used under Creative Commons from IndyDina with Mr. Wonderful (flickr).


  1. Oh this is soooo interesting! selling food illegally out of a vehicle? wow! Can't wait to see what the city comes up with!

    Strange we just touched upon this topic this week in class - check out this geospatial revolution video:


    wonder if the city could do something like this to attract businesses for a more permanent solution down the road?

  2. Thanks for sharing that video, Katherine. I think GIS mapping is a brilliant way to present info to decision-makers, and this type of initiative (building supermarkets in the areas with the most needs) should be replicated everywhere. And yes, we need to subsidize the establishment of these new stores while making it harder for big box stores to set up shop in the suburbs that are already saturated.