Guelph 'choose what you pay' food market to expand to third location
A community food market in Guelph that allows customers to choose what they pay has been going so well this summer, organizers will open a third location this week.
Currently the market is held in downtown Guelph on Tuesday afternoons and outside Ken Danby Public School in the city's east side on Wednesday afternoons.
Now, the market will open Thursday afternoons at the West End Community Centre.
It is run by The Seed — a project by the Guelph Community Health Centre to help those who are food insecure in the city.
"We get a lot of stories, almost every week of people saying they're able to double the amount of vegetables they eat every week because they can get double the amount that they could before or people who couldn't afford to eat vegetables before who come through and get a few things," said Becca Clayton, the community food markets co-ordinator.
Apples, she noted, are sometimes just 25 cents at the low end of the scale.
"You could get four servings of fresh fruit for $1 and you can find that on the street. You could just pick it up, change that fell out of someone's pocket. So that's what we're going for," she said.
Sliding scale model
The idea of the market is simple, Clayton said. All produce is sold on a sliding scale, so the top end of the scale is retail value and the bottom end is "as cheap as we can sustainably offer it."
Customers come to the market, fill up their baskets and then staff offer them a range for the total.
"The person who's checking them out would say something along the lines of, 'Your total is between $11.25 and $17.50,' and they would say, 'OK, I'm going to pay the $11.25,' and [staff] would say, 'Great,' because we like everyone on all ends of the scale to come to our market," Clayton said.
Not everyone opts to pay the lowest amount, she said. Research into the sliding scale model has shown when people are given the option to be honest, they will.
"We sometimes don't trust our fellow man, but really, we live in a community … where we like to support each other and when given that option, we do," she said.
Affordable fresh food
The produce comes from a variety of different suppliers; some local, some not. The Guelph Youth Farm —, a youth-led urban farming project also run by The Seed that hires young people who face barriers to employment — provides some of the produce. They also get it from the farm at Ignatius Jesuit Centre, an organic distributor, local farmers and the food terminal in Toronto.
One of the people who works at each of the markets is Eve Kahama, a graduate student at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay but she lives in Guelph. She said she loves the market because she often can't afford to spend a lot on groceries, but being a nutrition student she knows how important it is to eat fruits and vegetables.
"I love being able to impact people and see how happy they are to be able to afford fresh fruit and vegetables," she said. "It's great to finally have something that is affordable to a lot of people who may not be able to afford anything fresh and local."
People can get free tea or coffee, often samples of some of the produce and sometimes, there's other free items like bread.
It's a chance for people to "find community" along with the volunteers and staff at the market, Clayton said.
"It's just hard to create a program that appeals to people of all incomes. So often there can be a really big divide between those who shop at the grocery stores and those who access a food bank," she said.
"What we're trying to do is bridge that gap and have people of all incomes coming together and being in community together around food."