Mobile Food Market seeks a new truck to keep moving forward

HRM considering a one-time grant of $75,000 for the organization

A local food delivery service is hoping to have a new truck soon so it can reach more people needing fresh, affordable produce.

The Mobile Food Market delivers food to several communities in the Halifax region using an old Halifax Transit bus and corporate fleet vans. The organization wants a new vehicle that can accommodate several retrofitted food bins that don’t fit in Halifax’s current buses.

Also, by relying on HRM vehicles, the group has been restricted in what it can accomplish.

“We are somewhat limited in terms of the flexibility of our schedule,” said Aimee Gasparetto, a leadership team member with the group, in an interview.

“We’re not always able to reach rural communities, we’re confined to certain schedules, we only have certain days we can use the bus. Purchasing a vehicle really allows us to be a lot more autonomous in terms of how we serve different communities.”

The bus that the Mobile Food Market has been using.   Sydney MacLennan Photography

The Mobile Food Market started as a pilot project in 2015. It now services 13 locations across Spryfield, Fairview, north end Halifax, east Dartmouth, and North Preston.

The organization delivers fresh produce to communities that struggle with food security, including low-income families, seniors living alone, or people with mobility issues. It gets fruit, vegetables and bread from Superstore at a discounted rate.

“There are a lot of people across the HRM and in Nova Scotia that either can’t afford to buy food that they need every day or for some other reason simply can’t access healthy food,” said Gasparetto. “This has a number of different repercussions on our health and just in terms of how we’re able to live in society.”

A 2014 study showed Nova Scotia has the third highest rate of food insecurity of any province or territory, at 15.6 per cent. Only the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have a higher rate.

The Mobile Food Market selling produce inside the bus.   Sydney MacLennan Photography

The group aims to buy a Grumman-style vehicle, commonly used as postal trucks, because it can be more easily retrofitted than a city bus. It costs about $134,000.

Gasparetto said they have raised $60,000, and are waiting on a potential $25,000 from a federal Local Food Infrastructure Fund application.

On Tuesday, Halifax regional councillors unanimously agreed to direct staff to prepare a report for the audit and finance standing committee. The goal is to give the Mobile Food Market a one-time grant of up to $75,000 to pay off the remaining cost.

Mayor Mike Savage, who presented the motion, said the Mobile Food Market has improved food security across the province.

Surveys done by the group suggest 93 per cent of customers who used the mobile market agreed the service made it easier to buy fresh produce, and 97 per cent agreed prices were affordable.

“It’s had a big impact on access to healthy, affordable food,” Savage said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Gasparetto was happy with council’s decision.

“It was validation that council is continuing to really support their investment in the Mobile Food Market and recognize our work across the municipality,” she said.

Mayor Savage supports giving the organization a grant. He brought the motion to council on Tuesday.   Nick Cantar

The Mobile Food Market is hoping to have the new vehicle by March. Gasparetto said without the grant, they would have to look for funds elsewhere.

“We would simply be looking to other potential donors, so whether they be private donors or foundation,” she said. “It would limit our ability to actually achieve the timeline that we’re hoping for.”

A new vehicle would allow the Mobile Food Market to service more Nova Scotians.

“The vision that we have is simply to serve as many communities across the HRM and Nova Scotia,” said Gasparetto.

Nick Cantar

Nick Cantar

Nick Cantar is a journalist for The Signal. He is curious about all kinds of stories. When not working, Nick enjoys being outdoors.

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