From plant to plate: Understanding local food systems

Essential needs
September 6, 2022 •  By Centraide
Marché de fruits et légumes

On the Island of Montreal, more than one in five people (21%) struggles to get enough healthy food to eat. This is the highest rate in Quebec. Overall, 17% of Quebeckers are food insecure, a statistic that has increased since the pandemic started in 2020, when the rate was 11%.*

For people experiencing poverty, eating a healthy diet is a daily challenge, especially if they live in a food desert and have to travel kilometres to buy groceries and meet their needs.

A food desert is an urban area with limited or no access to fresh, affordable produce within walking distance.

The majority of Greater Montreal’s neighbourhoods are taking action to tackle access to fresh and affordable food in their territories. For many areas, the solution lies in deploying local food systems consisting of urban agriculture projects, neighbourhood markets, community grocery stores, and collective kitchens. These systems meet the needs of people living in poverty while also adhering to major sustainable development principles.

Effective local food systems need contributions from many partners (community agencies, municipalities, public health, citizens) to produce, process and distribute food and to implement good recycling and composting practices.

The neighbourhood roundtables supported by Centraide play a central role in deploying local food systems. They bring partners together, prompt them to collectively think of solutions, and support their actions.

The Collective Impact Project (CIP), coordinated by Centraide of Greater Montreal, supports seven neighbourhoods heavily engaged in improving access to healthy and affordable food:

  • Centre-Sud
  • Lachine
  • LaSalle
  • Mercier-Ouest
  • Saint-Michel
  • Verdun
  • Ville-Émard-Côte-Saint-Paul

While some neighbourhoods have everything in place, others are creating and organizing missing pieces to add to existing components.

The building blocks of local food systems

Gardens and greenhouses: for growing food

Markets and community grocery stores: for distributing food

Kitchens: for processing food

The benefits of local food systems go beyond access to fresh, affordable produce, as they help people to not only become food secure but also develop skills around market gardening or collective cooking. Food becomes an excellent way to build close connections between residents and build networks of mutual support.




*Data: Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), Fall 2021.