Giving the Opportunity to Give

Soupe et Cie, a Limoilou-based restaurant, has been operating a community fridge for anyone in need since 2017 and continues fiercely during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Melina Papalampropoulou-Tsiridou, Science & Policy Exchange

Walking down the gorgeous 3rd avenue at Limoilou, one of the most graphic neighborhoods of Quebec City, your eye cannot but notice the dark pink fridge standing proudly next to the restaurant Soupe et Cie. It is a public fridge where those who can place food in it, and those who are in need, can help themselves.

Photo provided by Soupe et Cie

Inspired by Emma Anderson’s article on the Feed the Hen/Nourrir Henri Project in Montreal, I decided to get in touch with the restaurant and ask a few questions about this amazing initiative. Audréane, on behalf of Soupe et Cie, shared valuable insights about the project, answered a few questions, and provided some representative images of the fridge.

The Frigo Partage initiative, Shared Fridge in English, started back in 2017, and was a result of two striking observations. The first was the overwhelming food waste in restaurants which is a sad reality for the majority of businesses in this industry but also observed in private households. With almost 168 tonnes of food waste each year in North America, this issue requires immediate action. The second observation is related to the alarmingly increasing number of homeless people and those who cannot provide for their families. The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened this situation.

Once started, the initiative was very well-received by the community. The restaurant only wanted to “give the people of Limoilou the opportunity to give” and it quickly picked up. Although it is challenging to retrieve exact numbers, approximately two to five people per day deposit prepared or preserved meals. When Soupe et Cie was open, it was using the fridge to store unused meals, and it is also possible that neighboring restaurants used it for their leftovers. Even though it is hard to know how many people have found their way to the fridge, the “sharing is very present’’.

The community spirit of Limoilou offers ongoing support of the initiative and Soupe et Cie continuously reminds its existence on social media platforms while taking care of the cleaning and general maintenance of the fridge. As a community project, it depends on people’s initiative, and it is the community’s responsibility to ensure that it is always full. Notably, a group called Fées du frigo, the fridge fairies in English, sometimes take care of filling it, in addition to other fridges located in the several neighborhoods of Quebec City.

A major challenge Soupe et Cie had to face at the beginning of this initiative back in 2017, was to pass the test of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Québec (MAPAQ), to ensure the quality of the shared food, even though those who donate are responsible for properly dating the meals. Since there are no specific regulations concerning food donation, the ministry’s role is to accompany such initiatives to ensure food safety and recommend the adoption of appropriate food hygiene, handling, and storage practices. For example, the ministry suggests labeling containers with basic information like product name, date of packaging, or portioning. Soupe et Cie got the green light from the ministry and continued with the operation of the fridge.

« Mettons fin au gaspillage: c’est fin pour ceux qui ont faim. » Photo provided by Soupe et Cie: Photo credit: Maggie Martel

It is relieving and uplifting to see how communities come together to support each other all over the province of Quebec. From Rimouski to the greater Montreal area several community fridges are operating helping those in need, however, private initiatives might not be enough to fight against hardship and hunger. Well-organized and structured government-funded programs are needed to further assist people that have been battling homelessness and poverty to get back on their feet and overcome the stigma and misconception of their situation.

A student-run non-profit that works to foster the student voice in science policy and evidence-informed policy-making in Canada. Based in Montreal.

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