By Chad Polito
In 2018 as part of the collective impact project sponsored by Centraide, the Maison de Environnement de Verdun spearheaded a food security project in collaboration with Casa CAFI, BGC Dawson, CAUS, Association Entre Tes Mains, l’arrondissement de Verdun, CIUSSS, and the CDSV. The “Circuit d’approvisionnement local de Verdun” or Verdun Food Circuit collects unsold or unused food from 15 businesses/institutions in the neighbourhood and delivers them to community organizations working in food security.
The food is then sorted and distributed to the community through eight organizations. Food that cannot be directly given out is processed and made into meals for the community. “I love that this project gets quality food into the hands of those that need it most,” explains Marc McKeown, community chef at BGC Dawson. “Not only does this project help reduce our environmental footprint by saving unused food from being discarded, it helps those facing food insecurity.” McKeown added that he appreciates the creativity that this project brings, as he never knows from week to week what food he will receive. “I have to create meals with the ingredients I receive and transform it into something beautiful.”
The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light food security issues as food costs skyrocketed and rents continued to rise. Those who were able to make ends meet pre-COVID-19 were now struggling to put food on the table and those in precarious situations were experiencing significant financial challenges. The demand for food assistance continues to rise and is 42 % higher than before the pandemic.
The food circuit project was one way that community organizations in Verdun were able to meet increased needs brought on by COVID-19. In 2021, a total of 14 tons of food was recuperated through this project. For 2022, it is expected that the circuit will save at least 28 tons of food over the year to support the food security activities of the eight organizations. It will also allow the production and distribution of more than 1500 meals per month !
Funding for this project ended in 2021 but the steering committee of the circuit has been actively searching for ongoing funding to meet the needs in the community. While waiting on news from potential funders, Isabelle Melançon, Députée de Verdun, quickly responded to a request for support. “I have a passion for community organizations and believe in this project and the impact it has in the community. It is my pleasure to financially support the Verdun Food Circuit”.
The donation from Isabelle Melançon will be distributed to the partnering organizations of the project to help with immediate needs with the hope of securing long-term funding.