Food deserts are prevalent in the city of Calgary, but the Community Mobile Food Market (CMFM) aims to help these areas by bringing fresh produce to people with reduced mobility.
A subsidiary of the food waste reduction program Rescue Food, CMFM was created by Lourdes Juan, a development consultant.
“There was a problem that I saw and I thought I could be part of the solution,” said Juan.
Rescue Food’s Leftovers program picks up unused food from various grocery stores and restaurants, and takes the raw ingredients to 28 different service agencies.
In May, CMFM partnered with the City of Calgary’s Affordable Housing to bring groceries at a reduced price to people with limited access to fresh produce.
“Four million Canadians don’t have food security, yet we waste almost 50 per cent of food we import into the country,” said Rob Ironside, team lead of CMFM.
Some of the food deserts CMFM goes to are Forest Lawn, East Village, and Sunalta, among others.
“When we initially got funded, it was going to be one night a week, eight markets a month,” said Ironside.
“Now we’re close to 30 markets a month.”
Calgary’s Affordable Housing recognizes the communities that don’t have access to affordable, fresh, nutritious food, and asks CMFM to set up a market.
“We don’t show up and tell people, ‘We’re a service that you need.’
“We only respond to requests,” said Ironside.
The future of CMFM is expansion, growth, and eventually providing different services to communities in need.
“We would like to operate in every city and collaborate with as many nonprofits as we can,” said Juan.
“We certainly want to be everywhere but it will be a slow growth process to make sure we’re doing everything right.”
The item prices are greatly reduced when compared to regular grocery stores, with a loaf of bread only costing $1.
“All of our food is purchased at whole sale, but we don’t mark it up as much as other people,” said Ironside.
Volunteers make up most of Rescue Food’s workforce, with only four paid people in the entire organization.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without our volunteers.
“We want to be a self-sustainable social enterprise,” said Ironside.
Taylor Robinson is a student at Mount Royal University, and is completing a practicum with Rescue Food.
“How do we have so much food but people are still going hungry?” said Robinson.
A part of CMFM is going to areas of the city where there is a large senior population.
Often, travelling to the store can take a large part of the day, and can be dangerous in the winter.
“Dealing with senior isolation is on our minds, and dealing with access to nutritious food is on our minds,” said Ironside.
CMFM has created a bond between the community members, with more people showing up each week.
“Last week, we had five seniors show up.
“This week, we have over 40,” said Ironside.
Many of the seniors living in these food deserts like to help the CMFM crew set up tables and break down boxes.
“I think people really enjoy being part of a community,” said Robinson.
CMFM runs Monday to Friday, taking a break every second Thursday. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up via the Rescue Food website.
“I think everyone can contribute to food recovery in every city because there is not a city that doesn’t have a food waste problem,” said Juan.