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‘Community’ drives Halifax’s Mobile Food Market

Project won silver at the IPAC/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Awards this month

5 min read
caption Conor Walsh eats a banana from the Mobile Food Market.
Sonia Koshy
caption Conor Walsh eats a banana from the Mobile Food Market.
Sonia Koshy

What started as a pilot project on a Halifax Transit bus has now received national recognition, thanks to its volunteers.

The Mobile Food Market has been running for two years, bringing fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables to immigrants, seniors and young families to combat food insecurity. It won silver at the IPAC/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Awards in Toronto on Monday.

caption Jessie Dale carries a box of produce to a truck for transport.
Sonia Koshy

Jessie Dale, co-ordinator of the market, said this success is due to those who donate their time.

“Volunteers are integral to the project; it would not run without the help of volunteers,” said Dale.

In the summer, a bus with customized food carts travels around the Halifax Regional Municipality, while in winter Dale drives a yellow truck and brings the market to indoor spaces.

caption The food carts are customized to fit on the seats of a Halifax Transit bus.
Sydney Maclennan

The work starts on Friday. Dale goes to local farmers to obtain produce, though in the winter, most of it is purchased from the Atlantic Superstore. Then a group of volunteers gather on the first floor of the Superstore on Joseph Howe Drive to package, weigh and divide the food. These items are then placed in a freezer.

The work doesn’t end here. On Saturday, volunteers help to carry the load from the truck and help set up the market. They also assist customers.

Many of these volunteers are immigrants. For them, the market is a way to improve their English and meet new people.

caption Sayed Amin, an immigrant from Afghanistan, volunteers for the first time at the Mobile Food Market.
Sonia Koshy

The market runs every second Saturday in north-end Halifax and Fairview. Since March 2017, there’s also been a Wednesday drop-off program for the communities of Spryfield, Harrietsfield, North Preston and East Preston.

caption Lucia Mckeane takes a piece of celery from the Mobile Food Market.
Sonia Koshy

Frequent customer Amy Laplante loves the market because of the prices and sense of community. She recently was able to get celery for $2.25 each.

“I come religiously every time,” she said. “Everybody here knows everybody; it’s another way to bring the community together.”

Dale loves the “positive environment” created by the interaction with different communities. She says this project is “near and dear to her heart.”

“The heart of the project is in the community,” she said. “It’s probably the only job that I’ve ever had that I’m so excited to wake up in the morning and get to work.”

caption Paulette Leamon shops at the market in Fairview.
Sonia Koshy

Since many of those who attend the Halifax and Fairview markets are regular customers, Dale now knows the likes of each community and will order produce accordingly.

“In the north end (Halifax) we sell a lot more cantaloupes than we do in Fairview, so I usually just order cantaloupes for the north end and then maybe one or two will get to Fairview,” said Dale.

caption Ascension Castilho has been volunteering at the Halifax market for five weeks.
Sonia Koshy

The bus and truck used for the project are provided by the Halifax Regional Municipality. Dale says about 30 per cent of the produce is obtained from local farmers in the winter, while in summers this quantity is larger. She gets the produce from Superstore at a discount.

caption Jenny Peters shops with her children at the market in Halifax.
Sonia Koshy

Jenny Peters comes to the market because of the convenience.

“We, as a family, like to eat healthy and prepare local food and the prices are very, very good,” she said.

Dale says any leftovers are sold to restaurants or donated to shelters in Nova Scotia.

Video shot and edited by Yuqian Li

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  1. J

    Joann Farmer

    This is fantastic. I’ve been following the project for a while now. Any chance ketch Harbour could be a drop location in the near future? Now that we have the community hall we have a location. Maybe we can talk Jesse? We have seniors and those who can’t drive I the community who could benefit from this program.
  2. R

    Ruth Larson

    I love this idea, more affordable, healthy food for all. No one should go hungry!
    • L

      Lothian Taylor

      Thanks for the comment, Ruth.
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