Mobile Market Gets Moving

If you can’t make it to this market, it’ll come to you

By Sylvie Arvanitakis

Place Benoit is a quiet crescent nestled in the southeast sector of the Saint-Laurent borough. Surrounded by a major highway, railway tracks and industry-lined roads, it’s one of several pockets in the district where geographical isolation, inadequate public transit, and financial vulnerability make it difficult to access foods essential to good health.

To address the needs in these areas, a small market operating out of a truck adorned with pictures of bright fruits and vegetables began making the rounds last August to nine locations, including Place Benoit. The project is part of Montreal’s Integrated Urban Revitilization program.

The mobile market is run by Relais laurentien, a social economy organization which emerged after 14 member groups of the food security committee of Saint-Laurent collaborated to find a formula for the district’s food security. Its largest initiative to date, the truck stocks fresh fruits and vegetables and non-perishable items in a temperature-controlled environment, and rests at two locations per day, five days a week. The market will remain open year-round. “In winter, it’s harder to go out and food is more expensive,” says David Lesiège, Coordinator for Relais laurentien, “so it makes sense for us to be there.”

The mobile project acts as a satellite to a physical Relais laurentien grocery store on Décarie Boulevard, which offers an extended variety of healthy food items including organic options from local distributors. Lesiège explains that there aren’t many big markets in the borough and smaller ones don’t always have the freshest produce. “I want to sell the best for less, with the smallest eco footprint possible,” he says. Although some items are roughly the same price as you would find in large chain stores, the Relais market has a smaller profit margin and offers services. “If you buy here, all the profits are reinvested into the community and go to people in need instead of a corporation,” Lesiège explains.

Dubbed the “solidarity grocery store,” everyone is welcome to shop there and from the truck. With 400 members so far, a Solidary membership is $20 annually and supports Privileged members ($5 annually) who get 15 percent off non-perishable items. The Relais partners with diverse groups to provide additional support to those who need it and to reduce surplus food spoilage. The city of Montreal also forms part of the collective by providing support through provincial government funds.

The project is aligned with the borough’s forward-thinking for public health (it was the first in Canada to offer healthy options in their sports arenas) and social inclusion. Alan DeSousa, Saint-Laurent Mayor, explains: “We strive to find a commonality to meet the needs of everyone in the community, regardless of which part of Saint-Laurent they live in. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate and lead a healthier lifestyle.”

Along with an online store and a second food truck, the Relais has future projects lined up, including workshops and a delivery service for vulnerable residents. “We want to be everywhere,” says Lesiège. “I hope this can eventually become available to all Montrealers.”

For the mobile market schedule, visit Relais laurentien’s Facebook page. The Relais laurentien grocery store is at 760 Decarie Boulevard, Saint-Laurent.


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