Architecture for Humanity Chicago
Fresh Moves Mobile Market
Food Desert Action
Fresh Moves Mobile Market
Food as well thought out social connections, which is wonderful way to recreate one with the other. – Marc BrÃˆtillot
Systemic food design thinking allows to go closer to the user, with fresh produce – service design revisited for the common good in the long run. – Alok Nandi
When fresh food replaces fast food, with a social and environmental consciousness… – Caroline Champion
A beautiful project, but a bit heavy on the organization and might be too socio-political. – Alexandre Gauthier
Fresh Moves Mobile Market
Fresh Moves Mobile Market is an one aisle grocery store, retrofitted within a decommissioned public transit bus, restoring fresh produce access to food deserts across Chicago.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Over 500,000 Chicago residents live in food deserts, primarily on the south and west sides of the city. Communities in these areas bear the city’s highest rates of obesity, diabetes and other diet related illnesses. In the absence of grocery stores, residents of these communities either travel extensively to buy food or settle for less healthy convenience store and fast food options that are more readily available. A significant deterrent to grocery retail in urban communities lies in real estate. Investing in real estate is a tremendous cost and a significant risk, being an irreversible decision once made.
Eliminating the real estate aspect of business investment will reduce start-up costs and lower risk for the new enterprise. Adaptive reuse of aging but safe infrastructure saved the city money on disposal and transit costs while creating a noticeable icon that came preloaded with puns.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
The Fresh Moves prototype has a variety of parameters that govern the project with two primary functions in mind—the provision of fresh, healthy produce and the education of neighborhood residents on ways to prepare and incorporate into their lifestyle the food they purchase. Fresh Moves is available to the community 3-5 days a week year round. The bus design incorporates energy efficient technologies from recycled flooring and shelving materials to provisions for solar panels on the bus roof that provide electricity for refrigeration and LINK [public subsidy] card machines. The bus layout considers universal design for the elderly, youth and people with disabilities alike, while also accommodating easy loading and unloading of produce. Thoughtful design allows the entire bus to become an educational tool, with recipes, cooking tips and healthy lifestyle information displayed throughout the interior. The exterior of the bus offers an opportunity for income generating sponsorship ads and super graphics to be displayed on a custom designed skin wrapping the entire bus.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Building on the groundbreaking 2006 study on food deserts in Chicago by Mari Gallagher, Food Desert Action formed in 2007 and partnered with a youth leadership program in North Lawndale to produce a study on food deserts. The study, reinforced the need and demand for fresh produce in the neighborhood and served as the research foundation for the design charrette. Food Desert Action approached Architecture for Humanity Chicago in late 2009 with a proposal for a mobile store that will fill a void in the urban food infrastructure. Architecture for Humanity Chicago developed the mobile market prototype based on extensive in field research with community stakeholders, sponsors and residents to determine an ideal sequence of operations, customer service and recognizable brand [in partnership with EPIC] for the organization. As the design developed, continued in field research and surveys were conducted by both the design team and the Fresh Moves team which significantly influenced the final design layout and branding to better address multi generational and elderly needs.
Ongoing research on obesity, diabetes and general wellness are being conducted by community health organizations and public health institutions with the individuals that frequent the bus to purchase produce. These metrics will provide quantifiable evidence of the positive health benefits that introduction of produce has. Support and demand for the mobile market from other communities classified as food deserts will also serve as a successful measurement of the project’s impact on other Chicago communities.
Partnerships with key community stakeholders create stopping points along Fresh Moves route. These partners will host educational classes, cooking classes and other various activities on their property. These partnerships take the experience beyond the shell of the stationary bus to an activated public space where lessons can be transferred to individuals to share with their families and the extended community at large. Fresh Moves activates public space by bringing fresh produce and educational programming to Chicago’s food deserts. By transforming the urban streetscape into an inclusive, interactive and multi-sensory environment, the project nurtures participation of the whole family and community in the routine food shopping experience.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural (see larger cultural question below), gladdening, etc.)
All indicators point to a substantial market for groceries in food deserts. Analyses of stores operating in food deserts show substantially higher sales than the industry average. A combination of population density, consumer access to alternative resources such as food stamps, and the lack of competition drive profitability for stores located in food deserts. The challenge is not a lack of demand, but rather the difficulty of developing a cost effective means of supply. While there are socially responsible grocery store projects in the planning phases, the immediate need remains while these develop. A new model is required to restore food access rapidly to communities, with enough agility to reach the areas of highest need. What’s most needed now may not be a grocery store at all, at least not in the conventional conception of a storefront or big box store that runs as a for profit company.
Like farmers markets, the mobile market will be creating spaces where the community can meet, build relationships, and conduct business. Collecting qualitative information through ongoing informal and formal surveys on how community groups are using the mobile market will create positive social pressure to improve health and contributed to refining future mobile markets in Chicago and across the nation.6. How is your project positioned on a cultural level? Or, are there elements that show a blending of cultures or is it monocultural?
Food access and hunger are issues that impact all cultures and are especially prominent in minority and low income communities. Fresh Moves is a platform whose produces offerings will be the physical manifestation of the cultural nuances embedded in each community it serves. Direct community input and storytelling will inform the produce selection, which is turn creates a more robust community that gathers around a communal shopping and eating experience.7. Does your project have nutritional elements? If so, are these elements available and affordable on a global or local level?
Fresh Moves is a platform for providing access to nutritious food and education in areas where it is not available on a local level. Fresh Moves is a design solution that is transferrable and could easily scale up to encompass a fleet in Chicago, or be replicated in other cities [currently in development in Memphis and New York]. It uses available resources that exist in any major city, which suggests a public-private partnership of adaptive reuse on a scale that has not been fully realized.