Social Grocery Shop Grants Access to Organic Food and Regional Products

Fresh vegetables By Lars P.


By URBACT, on July 10th, 2014

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Partners of the URBACT Sustainable Food in Local Community network recently met in Lyon, France, for a study visit and workshops. Their hosts introduced them to La Passerelle d’Eau de Robec, a social grocery helping deprived population to access to basic and sustainable products and which creates a social link between people in need and residents from the district.

“La Passerelle d’eau de Robec” is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) settled in the 1st district of Lyon, an old part of the city centre. In 2001, besides the usual activities such as social care for deprived population, workshop and events to strengthen social link, “la Passerelle d’eau de Robec” created a social grocery shop based on a new concept. According to a study led in the neighbourhood and the OTAWA charter For Health Promotion, the link between health and precarious living was identified as a priority. The NGO decided to act for deprived population on food diversity along with social support. The social grocery shop sells various products, from social care to organic local fresh products, not only to deprived population but also to citizens eager to contribute to this solidarity action.

The social grocery has different suppliers. NGOs provide hygiene products, fresh products, fruits and vegetables, private companies deliver organic and fair trade products and bulks, and Short chain suppliers (producers), fresh local products.

The initial goals of the grocery were to give access to food products for deprived people in order to maintain their autonomy and dignity, to protect the quality of alimentation, and therefore a better health, to create a place for meetings/ sharing knowledge to promote the social link, and to developing social diversity around a common project.

To reach those goals, the grocery created a system putting organic and social care food products at the same place and therefore, mixing populations with different social backgrounds

A Double Rate System

Two kinds of members are allowed to buy at the grocery. The association defined several criteria to become a member who can benefit from products proposed by the social grocery.  Conditions to access the grocery as a ‘Beneficiary members’ are:

  •    Financial (very-low or no income)
  •    Residential: residency in the 1st or 4th district from Lyon (area of the grocery)
  •    Having a support given by the social or associative network
  •    Being involved in a personal life project (job, accommodation, health etc.)

A ‘purchasing capacity’ is calculated based on resources and expenses from people. With only 6 Euros left per day and per person, a household can be considered as a beneficiary. The membership costs 3 €, and allows access to all the products proposed by the grocery during one year, renewable. Members can buy ethic products such as organic, fair or local, at a lower price: about 50% less than average market price.

Members who want to support an ethical/social project are funding part of the grocery’s project. For them, membership costs 10 €, and they can only access the organic, local and fair trade products, which they accept to pay slightly more than the market price, but organic products are sold in bulk, lowering the price.

Of course, offering a wider choice of products isn’t enough, and the NGO reinforces this action with educational workshops and events about food, cooking, buying,etc…

A Social Care Package

“La passerelle d’Eau de robec” acts on a global “social care package” – with economical and social benefits. Deprived population can access to sustainable food and responsible consumption which is conventionally reserved to people who have a better purchasing power and a better awareness of the importance to eat quality and sustainable food. Social benefit include:

  • Reinforcing social link thanks to a support and a follow-up given by a social worker for deprived persons.
  • Getting the members involved in the grocery’s projects: food collection, festival, store shelves, labelling, workshops (about cooking, nutrition and so on)
  • Mixing population with different social backgrounds

Discover more projects and follow the Sustainable Food in Local Communities network activities on their blog, where this article was originally published!


One Response to “Social Grocery Shop Grants Access to Organic Food and Regional Products”

  1. Hi there, your organisation sounds very interesting I am a photographer from Ireland and will be in Lyon next month to take photographs. Does your organisation have an address in Lyon ??
    My photography is interested in similar ideas that revolve around food as a social tool. Hope to hear from you soon!


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