MarketMobile drives changes for at-risk communities


Rakesh Misra (middle) began as a MarketMobile customer and now work as a volunteer for the program.

When it’s minus 10 degrees outside with a bone-chilling wind, the last thing you want to do is walk the three kilometres it takes to reach the nearest grocery store. But for many families without cars, making that trek is the only way to stock their fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables.

That was until MarketMobile rolled into a number of Ottawa neighbourhoods. In 2015, one year after completing a pilot program, the social enterprise received a grant of $125,000 from the Ottawa Community Foundation as the winner of our New Leaf Community Challenge, to help them expand.

Aptly nicknamed the “grocery store on wheels,” MarketMobile helps ensure people living in marginalized neighbourhoods have the opportunity to purchase affordable and fresh produce close to where they live.

The grant allowed them to build the infrastructure needed to expand the program to two days a week and hire a full-time program officer and two part-time drivers. Today, the program is driving real change for those who are struggling to obtain healthy and nutritious meals for themselves and their families. For children, a healthy diet can have a lasting impact on their physical, mental and emotional well-being.

“When I lived in the Bayshore area I used to have to walk to Lincoln Fields to buy my groceries,” explains 62-year-old Rakesh Misra, a MarketMobile customer turned program volunteer. “I am a vegetarian, so fresh produce is an important part of my diet and I couldn’t always get the foods I needed on a regular basis. Without a vehicle, I sometimes couldn’t make it to the store, but luckily, MarketMobile showed up in my neighbourhood.”

The MarketMobile truck now operates three days a week, and travels to eight different communities: Parkdale, Pinecrest Terrace, Sandy Hill, Carlington, Overbrook, Morrison Gardens, Bayshore, and Mechanicsville. A successful partnership with Loblaws and The Community Food Hub allows MarketMobile to offer customers fresh produce at a reduced price—in some instances, the savings are up to 25 per cent.

Along with more than 40 varieties of fresh produce, MarketMobile also stocks its shelves with popular dried staples such as oats, beans, tuna, spaghetti, and coffee. Rakesh was so impressed with the program that three years ago he decided to pitch in and help deliver the service.

“When I go around the different communities, one of my favourite things to do is chat with the clients,” he explains. “I still remember chatting with this one gentleman whose doctor told him he needed to eat healthier or he would have to get a pacemaker.  He knew that he could make the lifestyle change because MarketMobile was in his community every week and he could access fresh foods regularly.”

MarketMobile is constantly on the move and attracts a wide range of clients, from new Canadians and seniors living on a fixed income, to young professional and growing families.

“More and more, there are a lot of young parents coming to the truck with small children and it’s the kids who are helping to do the shopping,” Rakesh notes. “Without junk food or candy to choose from, the children are making healthier choices and instead of picking up a bag of chips or a chocolate bar, they grab a basket of strawberries or oranges.”

To find out more about the specific dates, times, and locations, visit the MarketMobile website at

The New Leaf Community Challenge is an annual major grant initiative that attracts and supports collaborative, strategic approaches to selected key issues in the community. Learn more