Monday, October 31, 2011


In almost all urban regions of the world street hawking of fruits and vegetables are not permitted because of their pollution potential to the highly sanitized environment. With the advent of organized retailing in many countries the phenomenon of street hawking has practically disappeared and in many towns and cities separately earmarked areas are made available with necessary facilities to clean up after the assigned time of operation. The so called Farmers' Market which exit in almost all countries in the West come under such a category though the avowed purpose is to provide local foods which are supposed to be cleaner, safer and healthier with minimum carbon foot print. As the city grows the distance between such markets and the dwelling points gets longer and longer making it difficult for many citizens to undertake such travels due to economic and other reasons. These areas are now being designated as "Food Desserts" because of non-availability of fresh and protective foods for many residents in such places. Pragmatic city administration bodies are getting increasingly sensitive to this problem and are bringing about policy changes to convert these desserts at least for a week into a "flood" through limited time sale of fresh produce in trucks in different neighbor hoods. Here is a take on this emerging trend which is interesting to watch for its impact   

"Once a week, in a neighbourhood of high rises in North York, a van pulls up at a specified time and opens its back doors. The people who live in the towers quickly make their way to the vehicle, where they buy foods such as potatoes and coriander, bananas and carrots before whisking their groceries back to their apartments. Within minutes, the van pulls away, leaving no trace of what just happened. It might sound like something more shady than vegetables is on offer, but it's a scene that gets repeated across our city for one simple reason: In many Toronto neighbourhoods, it's illegal to sell produce from a vehicle on the street. It's forbidden in Scarborough and, for most of the year, in Etobicoke. If you want to sell from the back of your truck in North York, you'll need $2-million in liability insurance. Yet these are the same areas that the city's own research has identified as "food deserts" – predominantly low-income neighbourhoods in the inner suburbs where people live farther than 1,500 metres from a supermarket and typically don't own a car, and where there is below average public transit access, making lugging groceries home an arduous task. In Toronto, parts of Scarborough, North Etobicoke and North York fall under the "food desert" designation, and many residents procure more accessible produce on the street from less-than-legal purveyors".

It may be worth recalling the changes that is taking place all over the world regarding street hawking of various consumer products including food products and the Food Truck phenomenon in the US and the Hawkers Center in Singapore are prime examples of renewed thinking on the part of the urban planners  to recognize the relevance of street vending and its social impact. In India NDDB was vested with the responsibility of distributing milk, edible oil and horticulture produce through the cooperative organizational mode linking the farmers and consumers for mutual benefit. It is another matter that this body succeeded with milk but has not made ant impact in the other two fronts. It is time NDDB reworks its strategies to set up centrally operated "handling" centers in the vicinity of all important urban conglomerates and offer to the hapless consumers fruits and vegetables of prime quality at affordable prices. Of course urban real estate situation is very bad and setting up kiosks with modern facilities for vending these perishables is out of question. It is here that NDDB must use mobile facilities for delivery at strategic places in a city at scheduled timings. This will be a great boon to the citizens who is suffering from the unbearable burden of food inflation largely contributed by the galloping prices of fruits and vegetables!  


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