Community organizations and food relief
According to the organization Les Banques alimentaires du Québec, 372,064 food baskets are distributed each month throughout the province, nearly half of which are distributed to families with children. Food items come from donations, large-scale collection campaigns, retrieval of supermarket surpluses or even purchases, and they are delivered on a regular or a one-time basis to low-income individuals and families who request them. This aid can be distributed through food banks, solidarity grocery stores, food vouchers or health baskets.
Food aid enrollment
To enroll in a food aid service with an organization, you may need to become a member and purchase a membership card, which can be renewed annually and costs between $5 and $20.
Some organizations also require proof of income and residence in order to provide the services to those who are less fortunate in the neighborhood. It is therefore very important to check the geographical area served by an organization before submitting an application for food aid.
Sometimes, a delivery service can be offered to individuals with reduced mobility. To benefit from this, it may be required to assess the situation at home.
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voluntary contribution of 2$ to 5$
In most cases, collected food is distributed in the form of free bags, even if some organizations ask for a voluntary contribution or a symbolic amount ranging from $2 to $5.
These bags can contain cans, sliced bread, vegetables, snacks, juice boxes, pasta, salad dressings, yogurt, and other perishable and non-perishable foods. The size of the bags depends on the size of the family. For example, a family of two adults and one child will get a bag of provisions that is proportionally smaller than one given to a family with several children; however, it will be larger than the bag of a person living alone.
Although the amount of food received is not always the same, it is usually possible to prepare 2 or 3 meals for the whole family after a visit to a food bank.
For most organizations, distribution is done on a weekly or monthly basis. This means that people wishing to receive food aid must visit the organization’s premises during the distribution to receive their bags. To ensure that baskets are available, it is preferable to call and make an appointment before going.
To this end, Food banks of Quebec is a large network of regional organizations involved in distributing food, while also providing food assistance services to the population in each region of the province of Quebec. Composed of Moisson et Associé members, this network serves some 1,064 local non-profit organizations.
Moisson members are regional food banks that act as sorting centres. They have an important infrastructure and provide at least 75% of the redistribution of food products to local organizations, as well as 25% of food assistance to people in need. It is therefore possible to get food baskets through food counters set up by these organizations.
If you are in an urgent situation and you are temporarily unable to feed your family or yourself, you can call an emergency food service near you.
Offered on an occasional basis, this service, when available, allows for food aid requests from people going through difficult times, even outside of product distribution time slots. When you make such a request to a food bank, the food bank will assess your situation and needs in order to help you through this difficult time.
Low-price food stores
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About 10% of the actual cost of the grocery store
Some food safety organizations offer users a solidarity grocery service that offers non-perishable foods at a fraction of the actual value of the basket in a supermarket. These low-cost community grocery stores allow you to choose your own basket of provisions.
This works like Magasins-Partage for Christmas and Back to School periods which sell toys and school supplies at a low price and which makes it possible to get food to prepare a good holiday meal or to fill children’s lunch boxes. This is given in exchange for a 10% contribution to the actual cost at the grocery store.
|Food available||Amount Allocated||
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|At the choice of the person in an affiliated grocery store||
If food banks and low-cost food stores provide food directly to the public, other organizations will favour the distribution of vouchers that can be exchanged for food in participating grocery stores.
This is the case for the Société Saint-Vincent de Paul, which, in addition to distributing products, offers a food voucher service. Operated by a large network of volunteers, this organization provides food aid to Montreal, Laval and the MRC de L’Assomption, because of a territorial subdivision defined by the parish system. On the other hand, the same service is not available everywhere in these regions: some sectors are simply not served by the Société Saint-Vincent de Paul, while others offer food aid in the form of food bags exclusively.
If you wish to benefit from this service, an assessment of your needs will be carried out according to your income in order to ensure your eligibility. If necessary, a food voucher will be given to you. Depending on several factors, the amount of this check varies. It is usually between $30 and $50 for a single person and that amount increases by $20 per additional person in the household.
In addition, you may be given a bag of non-perishable food so that your voucher is primarily intended to purchase fresh grocery products. In all cases, these amounts are determined on a case-by-case basis and may differ from one service point of the Société Saint-Vincent de Paul to another.
If you do not know the name of your parish and if you live in the regions of Montreal or Laval, it is possible to find a service point by searching your postal code on the website: http://www.ssvp-mtl.org/en/find-a-help-centre
Good Food Box
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Good Food Box or Boit’appétit (Laval, Lanaudière):
Finally, a different form of food distribution consists of making available baskets of fresh produce at low prices, such as fruits and vegetables, from local farms. The Good Food Box or Boit’appétit services, supported by several organizations in the regions of Laval, Lanaudière and the Laurentians, is certainly one of the pioneers in this field. This service offers different drop-off points where it is possible to get good food boxes.
Unfortunately, on the island of Montreal, after the definitive shutdown of this service in 2016 due to a lack of funding, very few organizations are distributing fresh products. Among them, Le Sésame offers a variety of food safety services and provides consumers with economic baskets of fresh fruits and vegetables, saving between 25% and 40% of the price paid at the grocery store. Similarly, it is also possible, through the organization Équiterre, to be referred to drop off locations where you can buy baskets of organic foods from local farms close to home.
In addition to low-cost baskets of fruit and vegetables, other solutions exist to overcome the problem of food deserts characterized by the absence of shops selling fresh produce in the vicinity. External markets like Marché solidaire Frontenac, Marché Saint-Pierre and Santropol Roulant Farmers’ Market all sell good products at a low cost and aim to provide the population with accessible healthy foods in their neighborhood.
Food purchase groups
A purchasing group pools orders from several people and families and allows its members to buy quality food. Significant savings can be made, because of the elimination of middlemen and the possibility to purchase larger quantities of food.
In the same way, using collective kitchens makes it possible to share the costs of dishes prepared in groups. Coming together to save money is the solution favoured by these initiatives!
Other food aid services
While all the services mentioned are intended to provide food assistance to low-income individuals in Greater Montréal, organizations which provide them generally have a broader mission aimed at the social integration of their users.
In this perspective, these services are often accompanied by personalized support and an overall assessment of needs.
As for material assistance, many places donate or sell clothes, household items or furniture at a low cost.
In terms of the social dimension, food aid is a gateway to the activities offered by the organizations, thus breaking down isolation and forging links with the community.
But food distribution is not the only way to provide food aid. Indeed, many community resources specialize in the preparation and distribution of meals (lien article sur les repas).
In addition, some services are specialized in terms of the clientele they serve, such as family organizations offering food for pregnant women and infants (lien article aliments pour bébés).
Others distribute food products according to their vocation, just like organizations providing Christmas baskets containing traditional foods for low-income individuals.