Pay-what-you-can market aims to get fresh produce into low-income homes
The À-Ma-Baie Solidarity Market in Pierrefonds-Roxboro is different than most: it has a "pay-what-you-can" initiative.
It's a newer market model which as Lyse Beaudette, the director of Bread Basket who is in charge of the market explained, they are not making much profit. They are attempting to buy and sell their veggies at no profit or loss, though they are far from breaking even.
But that's not the point of this market. The point is to feed people.
"The important thing is that we're trying to increase accessibility to good, fresh vegetables, in a neighbourhood that is considered to be a food desert," said Beaudette. "There are very few fresh groceries [available] for a reasonable price, in a neighbourhood where there's a higher level of low income."
The project is a collaboration between the borough, Éco-Quartier, and Bread Basket. Bread Basket is tasked with getting the produce.
Beaudette said the food is already being sold at a good price since the market is selling produce at the wholesale price. But clients have the opportunity to use the pay-what-you-can initiative if they still can't afford it.
And the community has been responding. Beaudette explained there was actually a market at the same location last year, but it was unsuccessful. The food was too expensive, "too fancy, and it fell apart five weeks before it was over." But ever since they took over, it's been doing well.
Although the small market is only coming up to its fourth week of production, their turn-out numbers are high. This past week, they had a total of 145 clients and 65 transactions.
"It helps me a lot because it's easier for me to come here instead of the grocery store," said shopper Brian Doiron. He lives right down the street from the market, and is visually impared. "I save a bit of money too, so that's good for me."
There are rules to this pay-what-you can initiative, however. Beaudette explains it's not a free for all.
One of the criteria they have is if a client is buying groceries that would cost more than $10, they have to pay at least half that, or more if they can.
"You can't come with $15 worth of produce and, say, ask to pay $2," said Beaudette.
If clients pay more or the actual price of the produce, then it will balance out their loss of profit, which would allow them to keep the initiative going.
Shopper Ruth Li emphasized how crucial having access to fresh produce is.
"It's a special experience. It's very important for us, for our lives, for our children, to have good health, and a good body."
The market has a partnership with an organic farm in Senneville, and Maxi Pierrefonds, whose surplus produce they buy at a reduced price.
"All the food that's being wasted, at stores and so on. I think that's just horrible, because they just take it and throw it out, still in packages and everything," said Martha Muyr, a shopper at the market. The Solidarity Market has the proper strategy to avoid that, she continued.
Through this initiative, the market puts perfectly good food to use, that would have otherwise been thrown into the trash.
Les Jardins Carya farm also weighed in on the market.
"It's rare to have fresh, nutritious food available at, say, food banks, or something like that," said Olivia Cronin, operations supervisor at the organic farm. "I think we have a role and responsibility as one of the producers here on the island of Montreal to recognize that and to help support these efforts to make food more accessible."
For unsellable produce, they transform them into jams, pestos or even calzones instead.
In the upcoming weeks, the market plans to have more prepared food and baked goods available. They will be open every Friday for 13 weeks until the end of September.
"We think that everybody has a right to good food. But if you don't give them the opportunity to buy it, then they don't get it. And if they're not eating good food, they're not as happy or healthy, and everybody suffers," said Beaudette.
The À-Ma-Baie Solidarity Market will be held every Friday, until Sept. 27, from 3 to 7 p.m., at the Gerry-Robertson Community Centre, located at 9665 Gouin Blvd., Pierrefonds.