Vancouver’s first zero-waste rescued food market opens October 1

The "pay-what-you-feel" Olympic Village grocer offers perishable foods that would otherwise be thrown away

How good food is for you tends to have an inverse relationship with how affordable it is (Case in point: the do-you-think-we’re-millionaires conversation I have with my partner every time he accidentally buys organic bananas.) It’s the same deal with sustainability: eco-friendly goods cost more. And for many people, that’s a devastating financial barrier.

Carla Pellegrini, director of Vancouver charity Food Stash Foundation, says that one in seven Canadians is food-insecure and one in 20 Vancouverites lives below the poverty line. “Lots—if not all—of the zero-waste, environmentally friendly options are quite a privilege to support,” she says. The Rescued Food Market, opening October 1 in Olympic Village, aims to change that.

Credit: Foodstash Rescued Food Market

Inside the market

“Our market is a pay-what-you-feel model,” explains Pellegrini, “so those who are in a position to support it financially can help keep us running. But for those who truly need the access to healthy food, there is no expectation of any financial transaction. It is totally voluntary payment.”

Credit: Foodstash Rescued Food Market

The community fridge

Foodstash’s environmental angle is rooted in where its inventory comes from: it’s all surplus, “ugly” or approaching its best-before date. The rescued food is gathered from grocery stores, wholesalers, markets and farms. “They’re dealing with too much stock or cancelled orders, or the shape of the produce doesn’t quite match up with customer expectations,” Pellegrini says. “We save that food from moving into the landfill, so we are reducing the impact of food waste on the environment.”

The Rescued Food Market will also have a community fridge where folks can donate tinned and dry goods, produce, baked goods and cooked foods from registered kitchens. (Everything must be less than two days old and not partly consumed.)

Credit: Foodstash Rescued Food Market

Some naysayers might scoff at the pay-what-you-feel model—won’t shoppers just take food without paying? “Honestly, in my experience working in and around the Downtown Eastside, folks who struggle to meet their basic needs are incredibly generous themselves,” Pellegrini says. She notes several situations where she has offered food to houseless people and had her offer declined, either because that individual just had a meal or they could think of someone else who could use it more.

Pellegrini hopes that shoppers will recognize how much food insecurity there is in Vancouver and that everyone will take only what they need. “I am hopeful that we will see some really great community support in this space.”

The Rescued Food Market will be open every Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at 340 West Second Avenue starting October 1.