Groceries from The SEED is a community-based social enterprise conceived to address food insecurity
“At The SEED, we believe it takes a community to feed a community,” says Gavin Dandy, general manager. “That’s how Groceries from The SEED works. Community members who are financially able sign up for a regular retail-price membership, and their grocery dollars help to fund discount memberships of 25, 50 or 75 per cent for people who otherwise can’t afford to buy nutritious food.”
For every two individuals who pay regular retail prices, up to three community members can access food at lower prices. The SEED is able to keep costs low through volunteer support and profits are turned back into the community.
“This is the first of its kind in Canada. It’s an easy model to adopt and we envision the concept taking off nationally,” continues Dandy.
The social enterprise launched a pilot project in November 2020 and by April 2021, more than 500 members had signed up: approximately 200 as full-paying shoppers and 300 receiving discounted groceries.
“Even during the pilot, participation exceeded our expectations and illustrates our community’s commitment to embracing a concept like this. People are telling us, ‘I’m buying groceries anyway, why wouldn’t I shop at The SEED?’,” says Dandy.
The SEED’s goal this year is to offer discounted memberships to 750 households, requiring at least 500 full-paying retail members to sign up and shop.
Circular thinking that strengthens community food security
Our Food Future is a commitment in Guelph and Wellington County to build Canada’s first circular food economy. Two of the initiative’s goals are to increase community access to nutritious food by 50 per cent and accelerate social enterprises that address systemic issues related to food insecurity. The SEED is an active partner in various Our Food Future programs and has been provided funding to help create and run projects such as Groceries from The SEED.
“What an exciting example of circular thinking in action: your grocery purchases circle back to help someone else,” says Barbara Swartzentruber, executive director, Smart Cities Office. “This ground-breaking concept couldn’t be more timely. Food insecurity was a persistent problem in our community before COVID-19, and recent community survey results indicate that some people are experiencing food insecurity for the first time due to the impacts of the pandemic.”
She says early analysis shows that almost one in eight Guelph-Wellington residents reported living in a food-insecure household in the past 30 days. Of the food insecure households, just under 64% said this was a new experience for them, and many of those people said their household was experiencing food insecurity because of COVID-19.
The findings from the study How COVID-19 Impacted Food Insecurity in Guelph and Wellington, conducted by Our Food Future and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, will be released next month.
“Because social enterprises like Groceries from The SEED fund themselves once they are up and running, they lessen the need for government grants or other unsustainable forms of income.”
About food insecurity
As defined by Ontario Dietitians in Public Health, “Food insecurity, also called household food insecurity, is not having enough money to buy food. Individuals and families living on low incomes struggle to pay the rent, basic living costs (e.g., utilities, phone, childcare, clothing, medication, transportation), and food.”
According to a Statistics Canada study conducted between May 4 and 10, 2020, food insecurity increased and is significantly higher during COVID-19 compared to a 2017/2018 reference period. During COVID-19, this study found that one in seven Canadians is food insecure, with families disproportionately affected.
About The SEED
The SEED is a not-for-profit food project at the Guelph Community Health Centre that was created in 2015 by a coalition of community organizations and individuals. The SEED delivers community programs and operates social enterprises that address the causes and effects of food insecurity. Their goal is for Guelph-Wellington to become one of the first communities in Canada where everyone has access to nutritious food.
In March 2020, The SEED and a network of community partners rapidly established the Emergency Food Home Delivery program and has delivered more than 80,000 nutritious food boxes as of April 2021. As part of its effort to support community recovery from COVID-19, Our Food Future has pledged to match up to $90,000 in community donations through the Harve$t Impact fund, which helps to fund the work of The SEED.
About Our Food Future
Inspired by the planet’s natural cycles, a circular food economy reimagines and regenerates the systems that feed us, eliminating waste, sharing economic prosperity, and nourishing our communities. In Guelph-Wellington, we are working to build Canada’s first tech-enabled circular food economy that will achieve a 50% increase in access to affordable nutritious food, 50 new circular economy businesses and collaborations, and a 50% increase in circular economic benefit by unlocking the value of waste.
Our Food Future demonstrates one of the ways the City of Guelph and County of Wellington are contributing to a sustainable, creative and smart local economy that is connected to regional and global markets and supports shared prosperity for everyone. This project is an example of one of the ways the City of Guelph and Wellington County are supporting the community’s economic and social recovery from COVID-19.
Gavin Dandy, General Manager
Guelph Community Health Centre
Barbara Swartzentruber, Executive Director
Smart Cities Office, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 3066