A different type of market supports Nantes' low-income families through the pandemic

It serves over 500 households and prevents tons of food from going to waste

  • October 17, 2020 17:00
  • Author Aseniya Dimitrova
Medium marchebell800
Nantes Ville et Métropole

An alternative market can be found operating in the neighbourhood of Bellevue, Nantes. Having kickstarted in the early weeks of the lockdown, the system has already grown to provide food for over 500 local households. But its functions go well beyond solidarity - the space has turned into a real instrument to strengthen the social fabric in the sixth-largest French city.

The multiple benefits of charity work in Bellevue

France has a tradition in social action and preventing food waste – in 2016 the country became the first to ban large supermarkets from throwing away or destroying food. Instead, they were forced to donate it – to charities or to food banks.

In theory, this sounds quite easy – simply deliver the unsold products approaching the best before date to disadvantaged families. In practice, however, this requires a good amount of effort, many hours of voluntary work and a great deal of organisation.

All of these seem to be present in the neighbourhood of Bellevue in Nantes, where an alternative market helps deliver meals to hundreds of disadvantaged families every week. The idea was born in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, when many vulnerable families found themselves in an even more difficult situation, due to loss of jobs or illness.

Every Tuesday, the Bellevue socio-cultural centre mobilizes twenty volunteers and members of associations. They gather early in the morning to collect and unload the vehicles of unsold food from the local supermarkets and prepare them for distribution to the families. The goods - mainly fruits and vegetables, but also pastries, vacuum-packed meats and dairy products -can thus be delivered on the very same afternoon to the poorest families of Bellevue.

Éric Pairel, director of the Bellevue socio-cultural centre, explained how the initiative of the Comptoir des alouettes association, supported by other local actors grew in size and importance. The target families were first approached by the charity associations and social workers and their numbers quickly increased. Six months after its creation, the team of Bellevue Alternative Market (MAB) is providing for more than 500 families at the rate of 180 parcels per week.

Furthermore, Pairel, as quoted on the website of the Nantes metropolis, expresses his appreciation with the additional socialization function of the market. “We really want to create a dynamic of the territory by involving the inhabitants as much as possible, but also different institutions, services or associations … With this in mind, two MAB volunteers call families receiving packages every Monday to invite them to come and help them the next day. And it works as 5 to 10 people join us every week.”

Finally, one of the first resident volunteers even managed to get a subsidized job. But MAB has no intention of stopping there: it has the ambition to involve other actors in the socialization efforts, such as primary school students.

We currently have the feeling of recreating the village spirit in the noble sense of the term with a generational, cultural and natural mix where people are relearning to live together, to know each other, to share. The first results are very positive”, Pairel concluded.



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Welfare