Fruit and Veggie Market for Low Income Seniors and Immigrant Families

The Cause

Good Neighbour Community Market is Canada's first volunteer-run "Pay What You Want" thrift store. The idea is to provide folks regardless of income with the ability to purchase clothing and shoes, books, and plants in a dignified manner regardless of their ability to pay. We have over 60 volunteers per week who help us to keep the store safe and running. Since opening in July of 2021. we serve over 600 clients a week and have redistributed over 180,000 items of clothing shoes books and plants. We are able to redirect items that would normally go to a landfill and redistribute them to folks who are low-income.

We had created an outdoor free vegetable market in the summer time for clients of the store as there is no foodbank drop-off or depot location in downtown. 75% of our clients are seniors who live downtown or immigrant families with kids who live downtown and cannot access traditional food bank options. With inflation higher than ever without income benefits increasing to reflect the change in the consumer price index we are seeing more seniors and families have to rely on our food programming. Our pilot was a huge success with the ability to increase the mental and physical health of seniors and immigrant families and children due to better access to nutritional foods.

Who Will it Benefit?

This market will benefit immigrant families with young children as well as low-income seniors and Calgarians who live in the inner city. Over the past two years we have seen an increase in immigrant refugees from Ukraine and also Kurdistan and Afghanistan. Although typically the government provides them with housing, many have struggled to increase language skills to be able to find work and also to afford child care for their loved ones. Many seniors are on the wait list for supportive living facilities so are still living in low-income housing in downtown (around 2000 seniors) while costs continue to increase.

Our thrift store has been able to provide them with adequate clothing and shoes/books but food is the biggest in-demand item along with toiletries. We believe that by providing a fruit and veggie market we will also be able to provide first-aid/hygiene items. Many women coming to our store are in constant need of toothpaste/toothbrushes/menstruation products/ and shampoo.

Unfortunately, all these items that provide dignity to an individual are expensive. Something that thankfully many of us do not have to encounter. I couldn't imagine how horrible it would be to not have toothpaste or shampoo let alone fresh fruits and vegetables to eat.