Regroupement Partage: New and ambitious food-security solutions

Essential needs
September 20, 2021 •  By Centraide
Petite fille recevant des denrées alimentaires

In the community sector, the shock of the pandemic has both accelerated the launch of new programs and showed how existing initiatives need to change. The crisis has in fact led to new and sometimes ambitious solutions.

For example Regroupement Partage is an exemplary agency that has stood out over the past months by fearlessly changing its practices and showing flexibility to make changes to meet increased needs.

Faced with a sharp increase in food aid requests over the past year, Regroupement Partage set up new services (emergency food aid and the “Cultiver l’Espoir” seasonal baskets), reviewed and improved some of its regular programs (Opération Sac à Dos and the Christmas thrift stores), and started handing out protective equipment to workers in the field.

The agency has been and continues to be a go-to player when it comes to supplying food security agencies in Montreal neighbourhoods that in turn give out food to their own communities.

This work has led to tremendous success

250,000 people

are now being helped
through Regroupement Partage’s initiatives

78,000 people

helped annually before
the pandemic

“It was important for us to respond to the needs of the population and neighbourhoods, which were completely overwhelmed and overloaded and didn’t know how to cope. I sat my team down and asked, ‘Are you on board with this crazy idea of doing everything we can to meet needs?’ Everyone said yes, and a week later we had developed an action plan.

“We succeeded thanks to not only the team’s determination but also the Regroupement’s credibility and support from our partners. Without those things—and without the solid structure we’ve been working on for 24 years— we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off. We already have things in place in neighbourhoods, so we weren’t starting from scratch.”

– Sylvie Rochette, Executive Director
Regroupement Partage

Emergency food aid

The team initially set up emergency food aid. Without duplicating services, the Regroupement offered food items that were complementary to those provided by large food banks, such as fresh fruit and vegetables and protein. “We didn’t just give out food; we asked, we listened, and we found solutions to make it easier for agencies to do their work and get food to people.” This initiative has helped 41,000 people in need.

©Facebook – Regroupement Partage

Cultiver l’Espoir

The agency then handed out seasonal baskets through its Cultiver l’Espoir program,a large-scale agricultural project in which young people take over tracts of unused land as part of a social reintegration initiative. They grow long-lasting vegetables (carrots, cabbage, rutabagas, beets, potatoes) that are donated in the fall and winter to food banks and community agencies. “Restaurant closures and the lack of some food items at grocery stores has led to a big decrease in the surplus fruit and vegetables that supermarkets normally give to community agencies.” In collaboration with D-Trois-Pierres, Regroupement Partage’s agricultural partner, the agency was able to hand out 6,000 baskets of fruit and vegetables to vulnerable families.

©Facebook – Regroupement Partage

Opération sac à dos

Opération sac à dos, an initiative that supports families at the start of every school year, also had to be adapted. Reusable face coverings and water bottles were added to the regular backpacks, lunch boxes and new school supplies. The food service was scaled up to fill families’ fridges and children’s lunch boxes. This fall, the project will benefit 19,000 people, including 7,000 children. Instead of delivering bulk school supplies to the neighbourhoods as it did in the past, the team took on the task of filling backpacks as another way to lighten the workload of agencies. “The CSDM helped us transform a school gym into a warehouse. We brought in all the supplies. We set up an assembly line with volunteers, who spent two weeks filling the bags, which we then delivered to the neighbourhoods fully assembled.”

©Facebook – Regroupement Partage

To round out the year, the emergency winter food service that replaced the 2020 Christmas thrift stores—the agency’s excellent alternative to traditional Christmas baskets—will be available again this year. Thanks to this larger, longer-term program, food was distributed to 63,000 people last winter through about 20 community agencies in as many Montreal neighbourhoods.

Centraide has supported Regroupement Partage since its creation in 1997. The COVID-19 Emergency Fund and the Emergency Community Support Fund supported these initiatives that were developed quickly on the fly thanks to the agency’s invaluable expertise and knowledge in the field. Regroupement Partage is a clear example of the community sector’s credibility when it comes to finding solutions.

In 2020, the Cultiver l’Espoir project won the Solidaires Mobilization award. Centraide of Greater Montreal gives this award to a neighbourhood roundtable or group of agencies that have launched an outstanding collective action initiative that has contributed to their community’s social development.