Montreal dépanneurs to offer fresh fruit, veggies

Projet Dépanneur Fraîcheur, a local collective, aims to infiltrate Montreal's food deserts with healthy and affordable produce.

Projet Dépanneur Fraîcheur provides produce in food deserts, underprivileged communities

Nine dépanneurs in four neighbourhoods have joined the project. (Radio-Canada)

A quick stop at the dépanneur usually means junk food but could now include fresh fruits and vegetables.

Projet Dépanneur Fraîcheur, a local collective, aims to infiltrate Montreal's food deserts with healthy and affordable produce.

Louis Drouin, who works for the Montreal public healthy authority, said there are 900 dépanneurs in the city and a large portion of them are located in underprivileged neighbourhoods or areas where access to produce is scarce.

Six out of 10 Montrealers don't eat enough fruits and vegetables, according to Drouin.

The initiative was officially launched on June 16. (Radio-Canada)

"About 40 per cent of Montreal's population doesn't have access to fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables within walking distance," Drouin said.

Accessibility, price and proximity are hurdles when it comes to urban dwellers acquiring fresh produce and it's a growing problem in city centres across North America.

Louis Drouin says that the project will help Montrealers develop healthy habits. (Radio-Canada)

The project was inspired by the Healthy Corner Store Initiative in Philadelphia, Pa., where corner stores offer fruits and vegetables in communities that lack supermarkets.

"The more an environment offers quality products, the more people will adopt better healthy habits," Drouin said.

A growing movement

Small kiosks are set up at nine different accredited dépanneurs in Montreal and offer everything from lettuce to pears. 

Projet Dépanneur Fraîcheur may be small but it is already widespread with businesses located in Lachine, St-Henri, Bordeaux-Cartierville and the Centre-Sud neighbourhood are quickly joining the movement.

Each dépanneur has a white sticker on the door to indicate the availability of fresh produce and they also offer recipe cards.

If you see this sticker at your local dép then there is fresh produce available. (Radio-Canada)

Éric Delisle, who lives in Centre-Sud, already takes advantage of a fresh food stand at his corner store.

"It's very practical," Delisle said. "It's been right in front of our home for a month."

Access to produce has already started to change his eating habits for the better.

"A half-hour walk back and forth when you've just forgotten a small tomato for your salad, well sometimes you just give up," Delisle said.

Nothing goes to waste

The movement so far has been a success for owners, too. It was the perfect fit for dépanneur owner Jean-François Marcoux, who recently starting selling healthy meals to meet the needs of his clients.

"We heard about the project and we think it fits with our concept that we want to implement," Marcoux said.

Each business offers a range of fruit and vegetables. (Radio-Canada)

"There are more and more people who live in Montreal and professionals who want to eat healthy."

The produce that isn't snatched up by clients doesn't go to waste, either. Fruits and vegetables that don't sell are donated to local food kitchens.

With files from Radio-Canada's Dominic Brassard and Anne-Louise Despatie