Pay-what-you-can food market in Kitchener seeks to improve food accessibility

The pay-what-you-can market and Community Healthcaring Kitchener-Waterloo is located at 44 Francis St. South in Downtown Kitchener. (Cameron Mahler/CBC - image credit)
The pay-what-you-can market and Community Healthcaring Kitchener-Waterloo is located at 44 Francis St. South in Downtown Kitchener. (Cameron Mahler/CBC - image credit)

Community Healthcaring Kitchener-Waterloo has started a new pay-what-you-can food market at their downtown Kitchener office.

The not-for-profit's market stocks fresh fruit, produce and bread, as well as some preserves and canned food.

Michelle Buckner is the manager of health and wellness at Community Healthcaring K-W. She said people who might normally use a food bank have told them they feel good about this model of accessing food.

Buckner said the pay-what-you-can model allows those same people to feel "that sense of belonging," and that they're "contributing to a larger cause."

The not-for-profit’s market stocks fresh fruit, produce, and bread, as well as some preserves and canned food. The market doesn't monitor donations, so any amount can be made anonymously.
The not-for-profit’s market stocks fresh fruit, produce, and bread, as well as some preserves and canned food. The market doesn't monitor donations, so any amount can be made anonymously.

The not-for-profit’s market stocks fresh fruit, produce, and bread, as well as some preserves and canned food. The market doesn't monitor donations, so any amount can be made anonymously. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

Payments can be made by depositing any amount into a mail slot at their front desk or by using a QR code to make a payment online.

"We want people to feel like this isn't a monitored donation system, it's pay what they can," Buckner said.

"We really believe in this process and the dignity of accessing food for everybody."

Where the food comes from

Buckner said the food they stock, in part, comes from food rescue services.

"The amount of food that is wasted, put into dumpsters, or food that isn't pretty or up to the standards that we think it should be, just simply gets thrown out," Buckner said.

"We don't have a food shortage, we have a food access problem."

Meagan Vanderhoek, a food program worker at Community Healthcaring, said one of those food rescue services is an app called Second Harvest.

"We rescued a large portion of goods from different grocery stores, places like that through the community," said Vanderhoek.

“We want people to feel like this isn't a monitored donation system, it's pay what they can,” said manager, Michelle Buckner. Donations can be made physically or by QR code.
“We want people to feel like this isn't a monitored donation system, it's pay what they can,” said manager, Michelle Buckner. Donations can be made physically or by QR code.

“We want people to feel like this isn't a monitored donation system, it's pay what they can,” said manager, Michelle Buckner. Donations can be made physically or by QR code. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

The pay-what-you-can model means that food doesn't go for the usual market prices. To avoid a large budget, Vanderhoek said they also supply food through donations from different community connections.

"We recently established one with the region's community gardens," she said. "If there are surplus amounts of goods from gardens, they'll be able to send it here for individuals to access."

The market can be accessed between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Community Healthcaring K-W's office, located at 44 Francis St. S.