NDG Food Depot. Non-profit Organization & Community. Montreal.

I was welcomed by Kim Fox, the Program and Innovation Director at the NDG Food Depot!

Entering the front office, I saw food donations that have been dropped off.

Met the wonderful staff who make up the Depot!

This board explores the major food security, and health issues that affects the community each day – as expressed by the members themselves. It also explains how the Depot endeavours to address these issues, through their programming.

The Depot’s guiding principles, that drives their programming, is presented in the main entrance of the collection and dining area.

The Depot’s ‘Wish List’, features items that they prefer as donations – including non-perishables, and other useful products. They also benefit from financial donations, which is partly used to purchase fresh produce – for the community’s food baskets.

The Depot’s food collection and dining area, is bright, warm and welcoming! An important part of creating a dignified environment.

Food distribution and community meals, take place twice a week. Members pick up their food baskets, and enjoy a healthy lunch!

On the day I visited, they were serving vegetarian Mexican style soup and salad. A balanced meal composed of whole, nutritious ingredients!

The Depot provides recipes for the dishes being served – as a way to encourage the community to prepare healthy meals at home! Practical culinary/nutrition education tools like this, can empower the members to improve their health – helping to break the cycle of poverty.

A ‘menu’ is placed at each table, featuring the programs being offered, and offering information about the Depot.

The back stock area is filled with non-perishable items, that are handed out on collection days.

Tables of healthy pantry items, fresh produce, and bread – are set up around the community space during collection times. The community members choose which items they want, giving them the power and dignity to make their own food choices.

Social and health care resources are also offered at the Depot, during distribution and community meal days.

Urban agriculture is a major part of the Depot’s programming.

Flowers from the Depot’s onsite garden, being harvested by Lauren Pochereva – the Urban Agriculture Manager.

There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer at the Depot! For anyone interested in food growing, cooking, and community building.

Much thanks to Kim Fox, for the wonderfully inspiring, and informative tour!

The NDG Food Depot is a non-profit organization, that addresses the important issue of food security in Montreal’s NDG, and the surrounding areas. A special local food institution, that has been serving the community for 30 years, their aim is to support people living on insufficient incomes, by providing greater access to fresh, healthy food, social networks and resources – while working to educate the public about issues of poverty in Montreal. They have an incredible, multi-faceted program model, focused on three areas: Food access and advocacy, food education and skill building, and community building.

What IS food security? According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs, and food preferences for an action and healthy life.” This concept of food justice, is at the root of the Depot’s programming, and focus on sustainable gardening, food distribution, nutrition/health education, and community building.

Growing up in NDG, I was always familiar with food depot, and have volunteered with them as a guest chef. However, I wanted to learn more about the organization, and all the ways they serve our community. Kim Fox, the Program Director at the Depot, generously agreed to speak with me, and take me on a full tour of the space – sharing interesting and inspiring information about and the Depot’s initiatives! 

Who are the individuals that make up the Depot’s community, and what are the main reasons why they are dealing with food insecurity?

Here are some stats we know: 25% of the population in NDG lives on less than $20,000 a year. 1 in 3 children live in a household that is below the poverty line. Over ¼ of the population of NDG lives in a food desert, with limited access to affordable fresh, healthy food. 67% of our participants spend more than 50% of their income on rent and healthy and sufficient food is often what is sacrificed in order to make ends meet. People are also cooking less due to lack of time, skills, knowledge and finances. 

Many chronic illnesses are on the rise in and have a direct correlation with unhealthy diets, based on processed foods. People living on low incomes are more likely to develop preventable diet related illnesses, to struggle with mental health issues, and to feel isolated socially. For us at the Depot, food has the unmatched ability to bring people together, and we use it as a tool, to teach participants the skills to improve their food choices and autonomy – giving them access to social supports and resources.

One of your aims is to help educate the public about the issues of poverty and malnourishment in Montreal. What would you like we, the public, to understand about poverty?

At the depot our goal is to address food insecurity. We know that issues of food security are directly related to poverty, and that people in situations of poverty not only have to deal with food insecurity, but face a plethora of other challenges – like lack of affordable housing, social isolation, and poorer mental and physical health. At its base – poverty prevents access to basic life necessities and as a result is quite difficult to climb out of.

Another thing to understand is that poverty affects a much wider demographic than one might expect. Children and people over 50 make up a large portion of the people we serve here at the depot. We also see plenty of ‘working poor’ and families, who after paying rent, simply don’t have enough for food, and skilled people who are either unemployed or underemployed. People living below the poverty line are also more likely to experience barriers to other basic supports such as healthcare, social networks, child care and legal help. We aim to address all of these interconnected issues at the Depot, to best help our community.

Urban gardening and healthy food growing is another major part of the Depot’s focus. What are the benefits of teaching people how to grow healthy food? 

People are losing the space, skills and confidence to grow, cook and choose healthy food. Studies show that participation in gardens is linked to an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, contributing to better health outcomes! Our collective gardening program is not just about growing healthy food – it’s about building skills, confidence, and networks to support healthy lifestyles. Many food insecure people are reluctant to use food banks because of stigmas associated with them. However, growing food directly, is an empowering way to provide people with better access to fresh food.

Our goal is to give community members access to a diversity of fresh local produce, in a respectful and dignified manner. We aim to provide gardening knowledge and skills, supporting healthier food choices and eating habits among the participants. Through these food growing programs, participants connect with their peers, broaden their community networks, share resources – and become part of a positive community initiative, which supports the environment!

On top of healthy food distribution, the depot also prioritizes serving nutritious meals to the community, and offers cooking education resources. What are the benefits of offering these tools to your members?

We know that people need to consume proper nutrients in order to be healthy, and that whole foods contain the highest amount of nutrients available. We also know that these foods can be expensive, compared to unhealthy foods – that are subsidized and artificially low priced. People living on low incomes simply do not have the funds to purchase enough healthy whole foods. They often have no choice but to eat highly processed, inexpensive foods – that are both lacking in nutrients, and full of unhealthy ingredients. Diet related diseases are on the rise among individuals living in poverty, and malnutrition is part of the problem.

At the Depot, we prioritize nutritious whole foods in the baskets we distribute, and prepare our program meals from scratch. Giving our participants greater access to healthy food! In this way, vulnerable community members can count on a healthy and tasty meal at least twice a week, when they visit the Depot. Our participants feel a sense of community, and less stigmatization associated in accessing our emergency food basket services, when they can sit down and enjoy a nourishing meal. We give participants easily replicable recipe ideas, based on what’s available in their basket that week. We aim to introduce community members to new foods, and to demonstrate how they can affordably incorporate them into tasty nutritious dishes. Our community kitchen workshops provide participants with further food education and preparation skills, while connecting them to peers and developing community networks!

The Depot seems to run democratically, and transparently. How do you include the community in the decision making around the organization’s programs?

We strive to create programs which are by, and for, our vulnerable community members. We build our programs using logic models which identify community needs, our objectives, actions, outcomes we aim for, and how we measure our successes. We also evaluate each one of our programs based on what we’ve identified in the logic models in a variety of ways.

We conduct focus groups, create surveys, and record testimonials within individual programs, and across all of our programs, each year. We’ve collected amazing data over the last few years which has helped us to improve programs, work on big picture goals, and long term program plans. This data and feedback also gives us perspective on the needs of our community, and how they would like their needs addressed- both by our organization, and by governments. This helps put us in a position to advocate for the community we serve! You can find our annual report for more info here.

The NDG Depot’s Programs in a Nutshell

Emergency Food Distribution & Food Baskets: Twice-monthly food baskets provide healthy groceries for members of the community. This food is also delivered monthly, for those who cannot access the service – including seniors, and people with limited mobility.

Community Kitchens: Participants taste a variety of new foods, and collectively learn to prepare nutritious and delicious meals with peers.

Meal Program: Free healthy meals are served twice a week, during basket distribution – open to all in our service area.

Good Food Markets: Weekly public markets that offer affordable, fresh seasonal, and often local food to the community. They feature prepared foods, activities, music and special events throughout the season.

Boîte à Lunch: A fun hands on program focussed on food literacy and healthy eating for elementary and high school students.

Ça Pousse: A social enterprise providing Garden construction, horticultural support and educational activities for community institutions, including schools, health care establishments, and senior residences.

Incubator Gardens: For Depot participants who are committed to keeping a garden, as a means to improving their food security. Participants cultivate their own garden plot, attend workshops, and have access to support from their urban agriculture staff.

Production Gardening: Growing food like fresh herbs and vegetables for the market and meal programs.

Donate & Volunteer

The Depot is a registered charitable organization, and accept donations in person, over the phone or online at depotndg.org/donate.

Join the Depot’s thriving volunteer community! Contact Julie at volunteer@depotndg.org to find out more.

I am honored to be cooking at the Depot, as a ‘guest chef’, on Friday July 21st (4-6pm). Come say hello, and have a healthy bite! 2146 Avenue de Marlowe, Montréal, QC.

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