Photo of food truck
A food truck, similar to the one in this photograph, will be selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks every Friday from July 15 to Sept. 30. Look for the mobile market outside Toronto General Hospital’s University Avenue entrance. (Photo: Toronto Public Health) ​

It's one more reason to love Fridays.

From now until Sept. 30, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as an array of healthy snacks, will be on sale every Friday on the patio beside Toronto General Hospital's Peter Munk Cardiac Centre entrance.

A retrofitted TTC Wheel-Trans bus decorated with colourful fruits and vegetables will serve as a mobile food market in a collaborative effort between UHN's Pharmacy, Wellness and Clinical Nutrition teams, FoodShare and Toronto Public Health (TPH).

It starts this Friday and runs each week from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. until the end of September.

"People from neighbourhoods across Toronto visit hospitals each day for health care or to support their loved ones," says Barbara Emanuel, Manager of Toronto Food Strategy, TPH. "They can now access fresh, healthy and affordable fruits and vegetables just steps away from the hospital."

This market is part of a city-wide initiative named Grab Some Good led by TPH and FoodShare that aims to encourage residents to make healthier food choices. The Grab Some Good mobile market coming to TGH is one of 11 located across the city.

"FoodShare, in partnership with the Toronto Food Strategy at TPH wants to make healthy food more accessible than a bag of chips," says Afua Asantewaa, Good Food Market & Community Animator Senior Coordinator, FoodShare. "This new Grab Some Good Mobile Market brings us one step closer."

The benefits of healthy eating

So how many fruits and vegetables should we be consuming a day?

Maria Ricupero, Registered Dietitian for C​linical Nutrition at Toronto Rehab, says that the average adult should be eating seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

A recent Canadian Community Health Survey found that nearly 60 per cent of Canadians eat less than five servings a day of fruits and vegetables.

"Sometimes when people hear 'seven to 10 servings,' they think it's unrealistic and it can be challenging for some.  But when you take a closer look at Canada's food guide, generally one serving  is only half a cup, which is equivalent to approximately 15 grapes or 10 baby carrots" explains Maria.

The serving size is only different for foods that have high water content such as raw spinach or lettuce, where a serving is one full cup, adds Maria.

As for the benefits of a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables, Maria explains that a lot of research indicates a high intake of these foods can reduce strokes, heart disease and some cancers.

"According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, not having enough fruits and vegetables can increase risk of death from heart disease by 11 per cent, stroke death by nine per cent, and cancers affecting the gastrointestinal tract by 14 per cent," says Maria.

"Fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in colour like bell peppers, zucchini and green vegetables, come full of beta-carotene, vitamin c, potassium, magnesium, and anti-oxidants that  can protect us from chronic illness. Nutrition is a very important component of the package that supports a healthy immune system, which also includes exercise and quality sleep."

An idea was born

The mobile market initiative started with a simple perception by a part time employee of Toronto General Hospital's Gift & Health Shop, Victoria Valdez. She noticed that staff and patients' families would often come into the Gift & Health Shop requesting healthy snacks.

"Employees and patients' families don't have time to leave the hospital and find healthier snack options outside. I saw the opportunity for TGH's Gift & Health Shop to provide better food to the staff and visitors here."

Inspired by a lecture about TPH's Grab Some Good initiative at one of her University of Toronto undergraduate classes, Victoria reached out to TPH with the idea to have some fresh fruits available in the Gift and Health Shop.

Since TGH's Gift & Health Shop is managed under TGH's Outpatient Pharmacy Site, this led to a conversation between Karen Chuk, TGH's Outpatient Pharmacy Site Operations Manager, Liz D'Addetta, Technician Supervisor for TGH Outpatient Pharmacy, and TPH, which then brought the idea for a mobile market to fruition.

"I thought this would be selling bananas in the gift shop, and it's turned into something way larger than I could have ever imagined," says Victoria.

The Grab Some Good mobile market is one of several  local food projects taking place at UHN. Others are being developed through UHN Choices for Ontario Food and OpenLab, a UHN design and innovation hub dedicated to transforming healthcare. These food projects are looking at multiple ways in which local, fresh and sustainable food can be incorporated into the hospital setting for patients and staff.

Wellness at UHN

Kathy Jurgens, workplace wellness manager, says this initiative is important because it further emphasizes UHN's renewed commitment to healthy living as the organization transitioned to completely smoke-free  grounds on July 1.

"UHN has been committed for years to staff, patients' and families' health and wellness within UHN," says Kathy. "So going smoke free and having healthy food options outside is really just an extension of what we do inside." 

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