WIT Press

Counteracting food deserts. The potential for mobile food vending in regenerating contemporary cities


Free (open access)


Volume 12 (2017), Issue 4



Page Range

744 - 751

Paper DOI



WIT Press




Even if healthy food is back on the agenda of a growing number of cities, for far too many people, and especially for those living in low-income neighbourhoods, the access to healthy options is simply out of reach. Many of these communities are oversaturated with fast-food chains and other sources of inexpensive and processed food, facing the highest risks of obesity, diabetes, and other preventable health challenges. Unsustainable urban development, market failures and urban planning have mainly led to food deserts, areas without proper access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. These underserved urban spaces have recently received a great deal of attention, seen as the product of poor proximity, means of transportation and shopping options in low-income neighbourhoods.

As cities seek to grow a more sustainable, equitable and liveable environment, ensuring that healthy food is accessible to all is crucial. Alternative projects, initiatives and policies have been developed, bringing mobile food options to these unsuccessful parts of cities. Street vending, as an interim use, is a mean to promote a livelier and healthier city, a potential tool that may generate positive community changes, if the agenda used to promote it specifically address existing inequalities.

This paper argues for the use of mobile food vending as an innovative tool to counteract food deserts and to activate the public space of previously dramatic urban areas, improving health and urban out- comes in places that need them most. It focuses on specific north-America street food strategies: New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle and Toronto have devised similar street food strategies with the aim to increase access to healthy food for the most vulnerable people.


activation, food deserts, mobile food vending, public space, revitalization, street food