“We have a lot to be proud of in the Haut-Saint-Laurent,” exclaimed Nathalie Collin during the official unveiling of a new “smart” or self-serve freezer, which was filled with locally harvested and processed fruits and vegetables, at the Chateau building in Huntingdon on October 20.
A driving force behind Les Complices Alimentaires, Collin was referring to the rapid expansion of that collective, which is made up of regional partners working together to reduce food waste and address social inequalities across the Montérégie-ouest.
The initiative got its start years ago in Huntingdon, when it was known locally as “Récupérer, conditioner, et transformer pour mieux manger.” And while the scale of the project may have swelled, the objective remains the same: to recuperate and process fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste, and to make them available locally through an affordable social pricing system.
The self-serve freezers represent a significant step in the right direction. Each unit is filled with 500-gram bags of assorted products that are priced in three categories. This allows customers to purchase products according to their available budget and without judgement. Along with the freezer in Huntingdon, units have now been installed at the post office in Hemmingford, the Centre d’Action Bénévole de Soulanges in Saint-Polycarpe, and the Centre Récréatif de Sherrington in Saint-Patrice-de-Sherrington.
Numerous local partners
Les Complices Alimentaires products are also available at the La Bouffe Additionnelle food pantry in Huntingdon, where manager Carol Ricard has been a partner in the initiative from the beginning. “I believe in the project,” she says, noting during the launch that “It is important to feed people, but also to reduce food waste as much as possible.”
Several other local partners have remained over the years, and Collin asked representatives who were present at the freezer launch to reflect on why they continued to work with the project. Most responded that they were proud to be associated with the initiative and believed strongly in its potential. This includes Dan Dussuet, who runs the Les Service Alimentaire Racines school catering service out of the kitchen at the École Secondaire Arthur-Pigeon cafeteria. A social economy businessman, Dussuet incorporates an important social integration component into the company. Along with preparing school lunches for local schools, his team takes care of processing and packaging the donated fruits and vegetables.
“It is complex,” he says, noting that, at times, things can be very busy. However, he says it is fun to see the results – both in terms of the amount of food being diverted from dumpsters, and the positive impact the initiative has on his employees, who take great pride in their involvement with the project.
“I can’t tell you how important this project is for us,” says Carine Moran, the director of the Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi Huntingdon. “It is hard for young people to start working,” she explains, noting the Complices Alimentaires project creates good jobs in the area.
Collin says the plan is to continue to develop various aspects of the project, including job creation and partnerships with agricultural producers. “We are proud to have worked outside the box,” she says, of uniting so many different organizations, businesses, levels of government, and local farmers around a single table. The goal for 2023 is to have 15 freezers installed throughout the Montérégie-ouest by the end of year.
The freezer in the Chateau building in Huntingdon is located on the first floor and can be accessed from either the main or side door to the building during the CLSC’s operating hours. The Freezer in Hemmingford is located at the post office and is accessible 24 hours a day.