‘A win-win’: Montreal Public Markets network expands unsold produce program

After five years of successfully redistributing unsold produce from the Jean-Talon Market to low-income households, Montreal’s Public Markets network is expanding its Récolte Engagée program to the Atwater Market.

Through this program, vendors donate unsold produce to community organizations that serve those living with food insecurity.

Last season, 677 low-income households saved 10 tons of products from going to waste.

“It’s a win-win,” said Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet, executive director of Montreal Public Markets.

“It is important for public markets to take part in the benefits of the community, whatever the income of the families.”

The partner organizations work in the neighborhoods they serve, with the Central Resources and the Action Communaire de la Petite-Patrie (CRACPP) near the Jean-Talon Market and share the warmth in the Sud-Ouest borough.

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The need for fresh produce is high

The Récolte Engagée The program’s arrival in the Southwest is a big relief, said Share the Warmth executive director Stéphanie Taillon.

Taillon said they are struggling to meet the demands of those who use their food security programs, which include food banks and lunchboxes for kids.

“This project is also really important to us because the cost of food has become so high,” Taillon said. “Buying fresh produce for our community is really a lot of money, so having produce like this donated to us will help ease the cost.”

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According to Taillon, their food bank membership has increased by 65 percent since the start of the pandemic — something she had never seen before. Share the Warmth is adding an average of seven to 10 households to their membership per week, she said.

But by meeting with the vendors and building community relationships, Taillon says the program is off to an exciting start.

“No one should be food insecure, and now it’s really going up,” she said.

“With projects like this, it’s important to have a really good mix. We also answer a need for them, it’s good for them to have a place for the food to go and not waste.”

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Fabien-Ouellet said that the goal is to eventually have all public markets participate in the program while partnering with those who know the needs of their communities best.

The Atwater Market vendors are not ready to redistribute products yet as details of the partnerships are still being settled, but Fabien-Ouellet says they should be all set in the next month or so.

“All traders are happy to participate in this program and benefit the community,” said Fabien-Ouellet.

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