Award of the Year 2015

Food Justice Truck

CobaltNiche Design / Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) /VMS Group

The Food Justice Truck is an award-winning mobile grocer, providing a fun, healthy and ethical shopping option to all comers, and a life-changing 75% discount to people seeking asylum.

The Food Justice Truck is an award-winning mobile grocer, providing a fun, healthy and ethical shopping option to all comers, and a life-changing 75% discount to people seeking asylum. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) is based in Footscray. Existing ASRC meals and foodbank programs provide food security for 1,600 members. However, there are nearly ten times this many asylum seekers spread throughout Victoria, 70% experiencing food shortages. Many people seeking asylum have no work rights; some receive reduced government benefits, and others have no income. The FJT seeks to improve food security for these vulnerable new arrivals.

Design Excellence

The idea for a mobile market to subsidise food for asylum seekers was developed by the ASRC. CobaltNiche facilitated a collaborative design thinking workshop involving people seeking asylum, ASRC staff, wholesalers, marketing professionals, designers and a zero-waste restaurateur.

Insights from this workshop (including the importance of food provenance, education opportunities, logistical practicalities, environmental synergies, and hanging produce crates on the vehicle’s side) were translated into concept sketches for vehicle fabricators VMS Group, as well as informing the FJT service development.

This design integrated development approach created an innovative service so effective that interstate charities are looking to duplicate the model.

Design Impact

Integrating design thinking into an ASRC project is unprecedented, playing a key role in achieving broad appeal.

The FJT provides a welcoming marketplace in public places, schools, or community events – convenient shopping with broad community reach. Shoppers are educated about asylum seekers, local growers, recycling, and international foods.

The mobile service reduces asylum seeker travel costs, operating central to their communities.

The FJT educates people seeking asylum on how to handle and prepare unfamiliar foods whilst endeavouring to meet their dietary preferences. Asylum seekers visiting the market are treated with utmost dignity, identified with an open question at the checkout.

Design Transformation

The mobile nature of the FJT service allows the ASRC to service a broader range of people seeking asylum who are often clustered in outer suburbs of Melbourne (Dandenong, Broadmeadows, and Sunshine). Locations with high participation by people seeking asylum are balanced with locations that attract a high volume of ethical shoppers; many locations have a balance of customer types. Only four months after initial launch, the FJT is operating at three sites weekly; Footscray Primary School, Thomastown Primary School, and Melbourne CBD (Wesley Church, Lonsdale Street). The ASRC anticipates having 7 or 8 weekly sites by 2016.

Design Innovation

This unique manifestation of the social enterprise model impacts across healthy eating, advocacy, environmental impact and zero waste principles whilst engaging the public to bring about benefits to the physical, mental and social well-being of people seeking asylum.

The diesel electric truck is clad with reclaimed timber, staffed by volunteers and stocked entirely with Victorian and Australian produce. It’s a mobile, near zero-waste market experience that provides people seeking asylum with fresh and affordable food.

Design was employed throughout the development ensuring a balanced integration of all stakeholder needs – creating a triple-bottom-line service (environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and financially viable).

Other Key Features

The FJT two-sided-market is a world first retail model about people, not profits.
Shoppers are investing in quality, fresh, locally sourced produce (with low carbon miles) for their family, while supporting the ASRC to re-invest profits in subsidising fresh produce for asylum seekers. The ASRC raised $150,000 in crowd-funding to purchase and customise the FJT vehicle. Many stakeholders in the project have provided services pro-bono, and the vehicle will be run with volunteer staff and a paid co-ordinator. Minimising overheads ensures the ASRC can maximise operating profits, and self-sufficiently subsidise the discounted produce for people seeking asylum into the future.