Calgary’s most affordable food market you’ve never heard of
Some of the most affordable, freshest produce in Calgary can be found somewhere you might not expect. The little-known Community Mobile Market in Village Square Leisure Centre offers more than just low-cost produce; it brings community together.
Every other Tuesday afternoon, you can buy fruits and vegetables, some of which are grown by local farmers, and other grocery items at below market prices. It started in 2018 as a partnership between The City of Calgary and the Leftovers Foundation to assist community members who have challenges or barriers accessing affordable and healthy food.
“If the mobile market didn’t exist, then residents might be stuck at home and eating more convenience foods, like shelf food, preserved foods,” says Kathleen McMurray, a community social worker with The City of Calgary. “It allows citizens to access healthy, fresh, affordable food without stigma. They would also be missing that community connection. Meeting their neighbours, creating those natural supports that create a community hub.”
In addition to Village Square Leisure Centre, there are three other locations were piloted and have had a noticeable impact on access to healthy and affordable food. In six months, the pilots resulted in a total of 7,904 transactions. Rapid growth, demand, additional locations, coupled with the Leftovers Foundation’ recent charitable status approval resulted in the need to establish the market as its own entity, now known as Fresh Routes.
“There’s a lot of non-profits that are doing great work,” says McMurray. “When we build and leverage those partnerships, there’s a lot that can happen in terms of scope and really using those programs that are out there.”
The events are open and welcoming to the whole community. Resident and nutritionist Motayo Dawodu says coming to the market has helped her to network. “It’s right in our neighbourhood,” she says. “I like that I get the opportunity meet a lot of people I didn’t know before. A lot of us just walk and come here.
“I like the fact that this space in Village Square is utilized. The market, the library, the leisure centre. Sometimes there’s fitness classes. You can learn about health and wellness. Last week they did soap-making. Just the fact that different activities are available free of cost is pretty cool.”
Melanie Rinh volunteers at the market as part of a Youth Community Council based in the northeast. She says it’s great to see food options available for people in her area that can’t normally afford it. “I think it’s a really good opportunity to purchase affordable, fresh foods just around the area,” she says.
“Everyone becomes a little bit more vibrant on days of the mobile market,” says McMurray of City staff. “People are talking to people that they wouldn’t normally meet. It’s really exciting to be a part of that. I think that’s part of what community hubs are all about.”
The Community Mobile Market has become part of the fabric of Village Square’s Community Hub – creating a natural space for connection and support. The next market will be held on Tuesday, April 23.
For more information, visit the Leftovers Foundation’s website: https://yyc.rescuefood.ca/cmm-project/.