Mobile food market tailored to those in need

The Food Justice Truck (FJT) is an award-winning mobile grocer, providing a fun, healthy and ethical shopping experience to the general public, and a life-changing 75% discount to people seeking asylum.

Our client, the Melbourne-based Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) is the largest asylum seeker resource provider in the southern hemisphere. Their existing meals and food-bank programs ensure basic food security for its 1,400 ASRC members. However, there are nearly ten times this many asylum seekers spread throughout Victoria, 70% of whom experience food shortages. A large number of these people have no work rights; some receive reduced government benefits, and others have no income at all. In order to address this issue, the ASRC identified the need for a mobile food truck that offers these vulnerable people food at a rate they can afford. This is achieved by subsidising the discounted food with full priced items sold to the general public.

Recognising the potential for this project to create real change and positively impact on people’s lives, we at Cobalt offered our services pro bono to the ASRC. We facilitated a collaborative design thinking workshop to ensure all key stakeholder’s voices were heard.

We then took the insights and ideas generated during this session and developed them into a practical design solution.

The result is the world’s first retail model that enables the general public to invest in locally sourced produce whilst also supporting the re-investment of profits into the provision of fresh food for people seeking asylum, at a price that they can afford.

The diesel electric truck is clad with reclaimed timber, staffed by volunteers and stocked entirely with Victorian and Australian produce. This creates a triple-bottom-line service- environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and financially viable; all thanks to some seriously good design.


  • Premier’s Design Award winner
  • Real user insights from all key stakeholders through Design Thinking workshop
  • World first social innovation retail model
  • Triple bottom line model – financially viable, socially beneficial and environmentally sustainable


  • Total sales of $121,000 just 9 months after launching
  • Provided $64,000 worth of free produce to asylum seekers in the truck’s first 9 months
  • Innovative business model that is being replicated by other charities
  • Reduction in food shortage experienced by asylum seekers in Victoria


  • Design strategy
  • Design Thinking workshop
  • Industrial Design
  • Service Design
  • User Experience Design
  • Brett Capron
  • Lorrin Windahl
  • Bernie Walsh
  • Jack Magree
  • Daniel Booker
  • Graeme Marshall
  • Joe La Delfa

Collaborative, user centred approach to design

Cobalt facilitated a collaborative design thinking workshop, early in the design process, which involved a broad range of stakeholders; ASRC asylum seeker members, volunteers, staff, fruit wholesalers, marketing professionals, designers and a zero-waste restaurateur. By tackling challenges and developing ideas collaboratively, the session led to several key insights that had a major impact on the design of the vehicle and the entire user experience. These key insights included the importance of food providence, educational opportunities for both user groups, and produce crates hanging on the side of the vehicle. They were then fed into a sketch based concept design stage, where we converted these ideas into feasible design concepts.

The final concept designs were then handed over to VMS Group, who fabricated the custom truck build – refining mechanical details while faithfully maintaining the design intent generated from the collaborative workshop insights.

ASRC staff and Cobalt Design team members were engaged throughout the vehicle fabrication process to ensure all touch-points of the vehicle were well resolved – taking into consideration the needs of all stakeholders (staff, shoppers and the community).

The resulting FJT affords a welcoming marketplace at schools, community events and public places. It’s a convenient shopping solution with broad community reach. Shoppers are also passively educated about asylum seekers, local food producers, minimising waste, recycling, and foods from asylum seekers’ home countries.

Related projects