Chew on this: Calgary Transit quietly pilots fresh fruit markets at LRT stations
SPUD Calgary supplied the local food stands to give citizens access to healthy fresh produce
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Calgary Transit's red and blue lines aren't just feeding riders from the suburbs to their jobs in the core, they're also putting food on citizens' tables.
At the end of September and during October, the city launched its first iteration of an ongoing pilot to put pop-up fresh food markets at Calgary Transit LRT stations to intercept busy commuters with colourful and local produce from SPUD.
The project aligns with Calgary Eats!, an action plan drafted in 2012 to address sustainable food and food security in the City of Calgary.
City sustainability consultant Kristi Peters Snider worked with transit to look at the city's known food deserts, areas where fresh produce is hard to come by and mapped out four different LRT stations where commuters would cross paths with the mini markets organically.
"We wanted to make fresh healthy food available to more Calgarians by placing markets along the primary transit network and activating the stations with food," Peters Snider said.
Bridlewood, Somerset, 69th Street, McKnight-Westwinds and Crowfoot all had the right factors, including schematics like how a market would work with peak pedestrian traffic, all ran the markets on Wednesdays and Thursdays outdoors where those accessing transit and others near a transit station could access the pop-up.
"I went out a couple of days, hung around and talked to people just to get feedback," Peters Snider said. "The public seemed to embrace the idea, they were surprised to see it."
Although the final verdict isn't in, she said the program will continue to grow as a pilot next year as the city develops the idea. She said one of the comments from those checking out the food was that they would have to make time and not be in a rush on their way home to enjoy grabbing a bunch of carrots or some extra kale. She said it was encouraging to see that people were interested and willing to learn how to use the pop-up market, integrating it into their commute.
She said Calgary Transit has been developing a retail strategy for their LRT stations and putting markets in the vicinity fit with their mandate to make stations community hubs.
Hannah Wilson SPUD Calgary's community development coordinator said although it was a slow start the reception from transit users was positive and encouraging.
"It really quickly developed momentum," Wilson said. "We got a lot of enthusiastic responses, people asking us if we were going to be there every day. In terms of bringing something really unique and fun and that people were interested in, I would say it was a great success."
She said they were able to change up their produce as the season changed. Their Thanksgiving specials were a hit and customers couldn't get enough of the peaches and plums.
Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said the food strategy is going a long way towards piloting interesting projects.
"I can only imagine what's going to happen when there's some concerted marketing behind efforts like that," said Carra. "In general, we want our transit stations to become multi-use hubs – I think we want every city-owned facility to become as mixed-use and community "hubby" as we can get it."