This might be the best of both worlds: a grocery store on wheels.
A lot of people don't like shopping for food online; TreeHugger's Katherine Martinko explains why she doesn't, including the fact that there is far less waste of packaging and she gets to seek out ugly fruit and vegetables that might get tossed otherwise. "People who are forking out extra cash to have groceries delivered to their home likely wouldn’t be happy with bag of deformed carrots and lemons." But she acknowledges that online shopping might be more efficient if the routes are planned smartly and all those individual trips are eliminated.
Now a Canadian entrepreneur offers a third option: Grocery Neighbour. Frank Sinopoli is building custom 53' trailers that essentially become a grocery store that drives to your door. It would be very useful in these times; he tells David Nickle of Toronto.com that it is well-suited for social distancing.
“We’ve created one lane,” he said. “It’s a 53-foot tractor-trailer so there’s one lane and you enter the back and exit the front. As you’re passing through the store, you’re not having to pass anybody. The experience will be high tech meets farmers’ market.”
Sinopoli also tells Nickle also notes that it is great for people who don't drive. "I'm being inundated with emails from older people saying they don’t want to take public transit, they don’t like traveling to the grocery store – so that community has been really welcoming.”
Sinopoli also answered a few questions that worried TreeHugger, such as whether it was legal to run 53-foot-long trailers up residential streets; evidently, in most of Toronto it is, although we have seen the trouble they sometimes have turning corners; the one shown above had to do this turn in about four steps, and have complained before that they shouldn't be allowed in cities. (Sinipoli says he is conscious of the problems of big trucks, and it will have sideguards and other safety features.) Also about universal accessibility, there is a long ramp that pulls out for accessible entry to the rear.
Sinopoli says it can hold a lot of food: "It's bigger than a lot of neighborhood groceries." Because it is going to different parts of town, it can be stocked with different products for different ethnic areas. It can also be used to serve "food deserts". Sinipoli says he has been asked to visit small towns and even trailer parks. He tells the CBC:
"We'll have technology to tell you when it's pulling up, or to notify you to where the grocery truck is," he says. "It will be like the ice cream truck when it pulls up: it will create that type of experience."
Katherine Martinko notes that it isn't a new idea; when she lived in Rio de Janeiro, a fruit bus would come to their apartment building every week.
But in the current environment, it is a very interesting idea, even beyond the days of social distancing, that could benefit older people and those working from home with no time to get to the store. Like the ice cream truck experience, it is a lot more fun than just having a box dropped on your porch. If it replaces trips to the store for a lot of people, it might well be good for the environment. I look forward to trying it out.