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New mobile grocery store launches in Edmonton to improve access to fresh, affordable food

WATCH ABOVE: A mobile grocery store called "Fresh Routes" launched in Edmonton on Wednesday and as Chris Chacon explains, the not-for-profit behind the initiative hopes it can improve access to fresh, affordable food in the city.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally stated Fresh Routes’ food comes from donations. However, it is actually purchased by Fresh Routes through partnership with H&W Produce and other local vendors.

A different kind of food truck launched in Edmonton on Wednesday with the goal of bringing “healthy, fresh, and affordable food into neighbourhoods facing barriers.”

Fresh Routes, a not-for-profit, unveiled its mobile grocery store at the Clareview Community Recreation Centre and said it hopes to improve the lives of those who use its service by “allowing choice, maintaining dignity and building community.”

The initiative sees the truck pull up to a venue before its contents are unloaded and then a pop-up shop is set up for people looking to buy food.

Ward 4 Councillor Aaron Paquette said he first pitched the idea for the pilot project about a year ago, and hopes it will be successful and then expand to other parts of the city.

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“I saw another city, Halifax, their example of what a mobile food market was, [and] I said, ‘We have to have that in Edmonton,'” he said. “We finally have this here in the northeast… [and] if this goes well… we will be rolling this out across the entire city of Edmonton.”

READ MORE: Mobile grocery store takes fresh approach to making healthy, affordable food accessible in Calgary

The refrigerated food truck is expected to offer consumers vegetables, fruit, eggs and other products at or just above cost. Paquette said the prices will generally be 40 to 60 per cent cheaper than at most grocery stores.

Fresh Routes buys its food through partnership with H&W Produce and other local vendors.

Paquette added that while the service is likely to benefit low-income consumers, there is no restriction on who can purchase food from the truck.

“If you’re a millionaire or someone who’s just got a few bucks in their pocket, it’s equal opportunity — everyone can shop with joy and with dignity and get the food that they need,” Paquette said.

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He added that price wasn’t the only barrier Fresh Routes hopes to address but also accessibility, in a geographic sense.

“We do have food deserts in the northeast and we can solve that with efforts like this,” Paquette said. “It won’t solve everything, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.”

Fresh Routes said that even though Grocery Run, an initiative of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension (in partnership with the Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative), has already been providing food to families who need it, more options were needed.

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