Jean-Talon Market merchants want to feed the hungry
Merchants in the Jean-Talon Market want to make sure their neighbours in the area are fed and will be donating a lot of food to make sure that’s the case.
Each year, vendors at the market throw out 200 tons of fruit and vegetables, much of it perfectly edible.
"No matter how much we sell it for less -- from $5 to 50 cents -- people don't want it," said vendor Johnny Cicchino.
This year, they’re hoping to get that number down to zero by donating food that would normally be thrown out to charity.
While many merchants were already donating to charities that asked, it’s the first time the market has organized to ensure no food goes to waste. While there was a pilot project last year, Food bank organization Centre de Ressources et d’Action de la Petite-Patrie director Nathalie Bouchard said its success made it evident that the project should be expanded. With less than 10 per cent of the market's vendors taking part last year, she said the room for growth was evident.
"We knew there was stuff being thrown away here so we just came and didn't have any expectations, really," she said. "But we recuperated about 21 tonnes of food which was very amazing for us. That's why we persisted all year to find financing so we could pursue it again this year."
While most of the food looked perfectly presentable, Bouchard estimated another 10 per cent was edible but didn't look pristine. She said programs are underway to make sure that food is still put to good use, such as being used for her organization's weekly lunch or by making it into soup that could be given away.
During a short trial period last year, 460 families received two bags of produce each.
Sabrina Racine, owner of the Racine Petits Fruits stand said she's against throwing food out on principle. Often, she sells overripe fruit to people looking to make jam but she's happy to see her fellow merchants get in on the act.
"I think it's an old mentality that a lot of people have but now I think we'll see more and more people that will see people take overripe fruit and vegetables they would have thrown out and give those products a second chance."
The Centre de Ressources et d’Action de la Petite-Patrie is one of the organizations that will receive some of the food. Bouchard said the initiative won’t just provide the needy with staples but will also give them access to foods they wouldn’t normally be able to have.
“We also get all kinds of vegetables that are a little more rare and fine herbs that people in need don’t usually cook,” she said. “We have people at the centre that tell them what they can do with these vegetables. Not only are they being fed a bit more properly, but they have a bigger variety now.”
This is a pilot project of sorts for other public markets: Atwater, Lachine, Maisonneuve, and a dozen smaller community markets, all still throwing out far too much food.
The city of Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie will be chipping in $85,000 to fund a refrigerator in the market in which merchants will put food they were unable to sell. The money will also go towards the cost of a truck and driver to bring the food to those who need it.