The SEED’s Community Food Markets with sliding-scale prices ran from 2017-20, when they were paused due to COVID-19. This spring, The SEED’s model was adopted by a team of students and staff at the University of Guelph to pilot their own sliding-scale Fresh Food Market at the University Centre (UC). The SEED consulted and partnered to support the 6-week project with storage facilities, wholesale pricing for bulk orders, and delivery/setup support each day of the market. The pilot has now come to a close! We had a great time and learned so much about how we can facilitate spreading this model.
Student Leadership and Big Partnership
It took lots of people and institutional will for this initiative to be successful. The idea for the sliding scale on-campus market came from students- Feeding9Billion & Arrell Food Institute peer helpers (Viv, Maya, Sayan, Rachel, and many more). Faculty advisors (led by Jeanna Rex and Sam Laban) facilitated the necessary relationships; and Sam Casey from Hospitality was fantastic in supporting a point-of-sale system, allowing students to use their student cards to purchase sliding-scale fruits and veggies! Jude Keefe (SEED Assistant and former market volunteer) provided on-the-ground support from The SEED and leadership for each market. Together it was a very impactful partnership which led to great success!
Access to Fresh Food on Campus
The market was set up in the University Centre, a well-travelled common zone on campus. The market was visited by administrative staff and faculty as well as students. This was an accessible format. Many market-goers mentioned how much they appreciated being able to buy either snacks or groceries while on campus- including that they saved time by not needing to go grocery shopping off-campus. The sliding scale prices enabled people to buy more fresh produce than they otherwise would and/or save money on their favourites.
Sliding Scale Prices and Sustainability
While many market attendees chose to pay somewhere in the less expensive half of the sliding scale, many also chose to pay closer to the full retail price. These market goers saw the value of the model and wanted to support those who couldn’t pay as much.
Each week, total sales were greater than or equal to the cost of food at wholesale prices. Like The SEED’s Community Food Markets and new online grocery store, this shows great potential for the sustainability of sliding-scale pricing for food access. The SEED believes in the power of sliding-scale prices as part of the solution to feeding our community.
Adding to a Community Feel on Campus
Visitors to the market were so enthusiastic to have this kind of access to fresh produce. The ability to meet in person was a wonderful addition to the campus environment for all involved, especially after years of no in-person learning!
Sometimes people were unable to purchase as much as they might have otherwise bought due to the timing of the afternoon market with class schedules and transit limitations. We also saw a dip in attendance on St. Patrick’s day- lessons for next time!
Involvement from the Guelph Family Health Study and other on-campus groups led to giveaways (meal kits and smoothies) and other fun food-related activities. This type of market is an excellent vehicle for community building around food.
From the start, waste reduction was very important to the student leaders of the Fresh Food Market.
A ‘free’ bin was created as a result of some quality concerns with leftover items from previous weeks– green onions, kale, and some fruits were placed in the bin around 3pm for anyone willing to take home these items that might be called ‘ugly/imperfect’ at the grocery store – or never sold at all. The bin was well used and reduced compost significantly.
Leftover items were placed into the Campus Community Fridge in the same building, where free meals and snacks can be left and recorded for students to access free-of-charge.
This commitment to reduce waste was an inspiring collaboration across the campus community.
September and Beyond?
Future of markets at U of G are being considered by the team based on the successes and opportunities of this pilot run. If the model is deemed successful enough to continue with ongoing funding supports and volunteers/staffing, it is expected that in Fall 2022 these weekly campus markets could be a regular feature on campus! Further collaborations with student groups and community partners are welcomed to enhance the experience of shopping for produce at a sliding scale.
The SEED was very happy to share our model and help facilitate this initiative. We are always looking for opportunities to collaborate and share to increase our impact and the possibility of good food for all.