Mobile food market takes aim at food insecurity in rural Ontario

Click to play video: 'Mobile food market in rural Durham Region targets food insecurity' Mobile food market in rural Durham Region targets food insecurity
There is a new option for fresh, healthy food for people living in Brock Township, near Lake Simcoe. It's a food market on wheels, serving rural areas that some call "food deserts." Albert Delitala has more on the effort to fight food insecurity – Oct 7, 2021

A new food market on wheels is on the move in a rural part of Ontario’s Durham Region in an effort to make fresh, healthy food more accessible, as one expert says the area and others like it have become “food deserts.”

On Thursday, the Mobile Food Market made its regular stop in front of a residential building in the small community of Cannington, Ont., near Lake Simcoe.

Stephanie Demuth was among the residents lining up for fresh, locally-grown produce.

“Acorn squashes, green onions, some prepared meals,” she said, listing off some of the items she purchased.

Read more: McMaster, Hamilton food share study suggests users are among the ‘poorest of the poor’

Demuth said the market, run by the local non-profit The Nourish and Develop Foundation, has made a big difference for her household.

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“Although my husband and I are both working and make a reasonable wage, there are some things that are out of our grasp — on a regular, weekly basis,” she explained.

Taking food to rural customers

The service launched in August, aiming to be a “consistent, reliable source of affordable food,” the charity’s community development manager, Zoe Levitt, told Global News.

The truck stops in 10 locations across Brock Township on Wednesdays and Thursdays once every two weeks. She said the area is a “food desert,” meaning many residents don’t have affordable, convenient access to fresh, nutritious food.

Read more: World food prices continue to rise, hit 10-year peak, U.N. agency says

“Brock Township is in a rural area and so there is a large farming industry in this area, but there’s not always the outlets for purchasing those items,” she said.

Widespread issue for rural communities

The accessibility of fresh food is a problem in rural areas across Canada, according to Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Charlebois explained rural areas can become food deserts since they are often far from more densely-populated centres where most food is processed.

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“That really has an impact on the quality of products,” he said. “It has an impact on the variety of different products.”

The food security expert also warned the lack of availability of good food can have a long-term impact on dietary behaviours.

“You’ll make deliberate choices to feed yourself or your family or your friends,” Charlebois said, “and those compromises become tradition.”

Read more: Food banks aren’t meant to be long-term solutions in a pandemic: experts

With affordability in mind, Levitt said the mobile market sells items at wholesale prices, with everything grown locally.

“By making it affordable to everybody,” she said, “the hope is that anybody, no matter what their financial situation might be, can access our sources.”

Click to play video: 'Why food insecurity in Canada is growing' Why food insecurity in Canada is growing
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