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Montreal to ban stores from dumping unsold food

Montreal is hoping to stop perfectly good food from ending up in landfills as part of a plan to significantly cut waste by targeting the source.

The city’s point person on the environment announced the proposed measures Thursday as part of a five-year master plan for waste management between 2020 and 2025.

Coun. Laurence Lavigne Lalonde, the executive committee member in charge of ecological transition, cited an urgency to act due to climate change and the fact that the city’s main dump is slated to shutter by 2029.

“The plan that we’re proposing today will enable us to achieve the ambitious targets that we set in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and managing residual material,” Lavigne Lalonde said.

It doesn’t make sense, she said, that perfectly consumable items end up in the trash while children and others go hungry.

“We will prohibit large grocery chains, educational institutions and hospitals from throwing away food they no longer think is fresh,” Lavigne Lalonde said.

Food waste is a widespread issue across the country: according to a study commissioned earlier this year by Toronto-based charity Second Harvest, one-third of Canada’s discarded food could be recovered.

Quebec already has a supermarket recovery program in place that some stores take part in, sending food to various shelters. Lavigne Lalonde said the city wants to work with the province to ensure such programs are expanded.

The move is the latest in Montreal’s attempts to reduce its waste–and by extension, its carbon footprint. In April, the city announced it would introduce a bylaw banning single-use items such as plastics and polystyrene foam containers by spring 2020–promising a slow transition to allow businesses to make the switch.

In 2018, it issued a ban on plastic bags that covers the distribution of lightweight bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns as well as biodegradable bags, which contain an additive that causes them to decompose in heat and light.

Lavigne Lalonde said the goal is to make it easier for citizens to reduce their waste.

Parenteau said food sellers could be subject to yet-to-be determined fines if they violate the new rules.

He pointed to France, where laws obliges grocery stores to donate edible food and levies hefty fines if they don’t, but added in Montreal, that’s not the main goal of the law.

“The first goal is not to fine, but to change the mentality,” Parenteau said.

A public consultation will be held on the plan, but the city’s objectives are to divert up to 70% of residual waste away from landfills by 2025 and 85% by 2030.

In that time, the city wants to reduce the amount of waste produced by each Montrealer by 10% in 2025 and 20% in 2030–which works out to 10 kilograms per citizen per year.

Dépanneur Le Pick-Up: The heart of the community



Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 1.46.37 PMSometimes the heart trumps reason.

Just ask Montreal dépanneur owner Penny Pattison.

Ten years ago she and friend/business partner Bernadette Houde were aspiring entrepreneurs looking for a small business they could buy and run together.

 “We were both at a point in our lives where we wanted to do something different,” recalls Pattison, who worked in business management. Houde—aka Bernie Bankrupt from the band Lesbians on Ecstasy—previously owned and operated a café.

The duo’s search led to Chez Maurice, a once-popular convenience store and lunch counter in a hard-luck industrial area north of downtown Montreal, but notably close to the Jean-Talon Market, Little Italy and the bourgeois Mile End neighbourhood.

 “All the needle trade businesses in the area were gone and the store wasn’t doing very well, which is why it was for sale,” says Pattison.  “From a strictly business standpoint it didn’t look too promising. But the store looked cute, we had friends in the area and we really believed the neighbourhood needed a place like this.  It was a unique opportunity and we went for it.” 

They changed the name to Dépanneur Le Pick-Up, but otherwise Pattison and Houde kept the business looking and operating much the way it had since it opened in the 1950s.

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 1.46.57 PM“We kept the original lunch counter and stools, which we love and really give the place a lot of charm and make it unique—there just aren’t many places like this anymore,” says Pattison. “The business was really centred on the food.  And we kept everything from the original menu, like burgers, steak subs, hot dogs and breakfast sandwiches, which are the most popular items. There’s no fries or anything like that. We don’t do any deep frying.”

The partners also maintained the popular variety of items that stock the store’s fridges and shelves, including beer, wine, soft drinks, chips, candy bars and snacks, as well as cigarettes and simple household items like toilet paper. “There are two large grocery stores nearby that have everything and are open all the time, so we just stock the essentials,” says Pattison.  

Much to Pattison and Houde’s delight (and perhaps due in part to the confidence and vibe they brought to the neighbourhood) Dépanneur Le Pick-Up is now a hub in what’s considered the hippest square-mile enclave on the Island of Montreal.

Rock-bottom rents in the area’s abandoned industrial buildings attracted a host of new businesses that span garages, body shops, ethnic restaurants, small food processing companies, white collar professionals and even a documentary production company that sometimes works with Hollywood stars (Bill Pullman was a mealtime regular while in town filming).

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 1.47.42 PM“The neighbourhood is very popular and there’s a really dynamic mix of businesses and people,” says Pattison.  “And, many of our suppliers—the butcher, the coffee maker, the fishmonger—are within walking distance, as is the Jean Talon Market.  How cool is that?”

Equally cool is the nickname—Mile-Ex—bestowed on the area by Montreal media. The buzz and action drive a steady stream of customers through Dépanneur Le Pick-Up, where convenience item sales account for about a third of revenue, but fresh food is the big attraction.

“The items on the original menu remain popular and so are the things we’d added like good coffee and fresh baked goods that we make here,” says Pattison.  “We also added picnic tables to seat a dozen more people outside at lunch. There are always people there when the weather’s nice.”

During the first few years, the owners worked the store all day every day, but today responsibilities are shared with the dozen or so employees hired during the busy summer months. Pattison and Houde also own and operate a nearby gay bar called Alexandraplatz, which is open most nights from May to October. 

“Over time we’ve kind of stepped back into a more managerial role,” says Pattison of Dépanneur Le Pick-Up’s evolution.  “We’re really happy with how things have turned out.”


Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 1.47.23 PM3 Tips:

  1. Respect your customer base. “Know what they want and what are looking for.”
  2. A fair product for a fair price.  “That’s been our motto from day one. It’s who we are.”
  3. Hire good people.  “You want people who like what they do and will help make the work environment more pleasureful.”


Marché G. Lalime features Montrealers’ favourites

Maximilien Lalime says location, quality food and personalized customer service certainly help to explain the continued success of his family’s third-generation convenience store and speciality market near downtown Montreal.

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Patrick and Maximilien Lalime.                           Photos: Chantale Lecours

But he credits his family’s devotion to the business and their ability to stay in step with the times for making Marché G. Lalime a local institution for the past 60 years.

“We’ve evolved with the neighbourhood and made changes to meet people’s demands,” says Maximilien, a 32-year-old father of three and grandson of store founder Gilles Lalime. He has worked for his father Daniel Lalime, the current store owner, for more than a decade.

“We listen to our clients and try to offer them the things they want and need,” says Maximilien – Max to family, friends and store regulars.

Fresh food sells

Screen Shot 2019-06-18 at 12.10.28 PMA case in point is the store’s introduction a year ago of a new meat pie made with shredded beef bourguignon.

The store sells – and is renowned for – a wide selection of homemade food items and prepared meals that members of the Lalime family make fresh on an almost daily basis.

“None of us thought it would do well,” Max says about the shredded beef pie, which was a spur-of-the-moment idea to recoup an overcooked beef bourguignon. “But it’s done great. We sell a ton of them now.”

The new product bolsters the store’s lineup of top-selling dishes like lasagna, tortière (meat pies), ragout, shepherd’s pie, vegetarian meals, and salads.  

Its most popular items, however, are home-style sandwiches made mostly with sliced white bread.  

The runaway bestseller is the “Club-matin,” a toasted, three-decker breakfast sandwich that sells for only $2.99 – the best food bargain in the city according to store customers, says Max.

Its iconic club sandwich has also earned the store local fame, helping to drive the occasional sales of t-shirts and baseball caps emblazoned with the Marché G. Lalime logo.

“People come from all around to get our food,” says Max.  “It always smells good in our store and there is always a good vibe.”


From meat to much more

That’s a big change from the store that his grandfather Gilles, a butcher by trade, opened in 1959 on Boulevard St Laurent, a busy north-south commercial artery that spans the width of the island of Montreal at its centre point.

Located at the junction of three big city boroughs – Outremont, Le Plateau and Rosemont – the original store supplied mostly fresh meat products to the many large working-class families who lived in the area.

After moving the store 30 years ago to its present location a few hundred metres south at the corner of Beaubien Street, the Lalimes added everyday grocery items, plus lottery tickets, wine and beer. They also started making and selling homemade dishes of popular Québécois foods.

 “My grandad and dad realized that people were too busy and no longer had time to make the traditional foods they like,” says Max. “So they decided to try and fill that need.”

 From the get-go, that food production has been a family affair for the Lalimes.  

Daniel’s brother Patrick, for example, comes into the store most mornings at 3 a.m. to make and fill the cooler with 100 sandwiches or more, often with the help of his wife.

 That doesn’t include the side orders of toast for $1 and the dozens of “Club-matins” and other made-to-order sandwiches that start going out the door with overnight and early-bird workers as soon as the store opens at 5 a.m.

Daniel, his sister Ginette and three of Max’s cousins help to make and fill food orders and to staff the store during the day until closing time at 11 p.m.

Daniel’s wife, Marie-Claude, makes vegetarian plates at home that Daniel brings in to the store.

According to Max, those plates, which were added to the store’s food line a few years ago in response to the growing vegan movement, have proven wildly popular. 

“The idea for a vegetarian plate was on our radar, we talked about it and then – boom! – we introduced it,” says Max, who handles the store’s cash and manages everything from traffic flow and home deliveries by bike to lottery tickets and store inventory. “That’s how we’ve always done it for new things and it has worked well.  I don’t see why we’d change that approach.”


Marché G. Lalime’s top tips:

#1. Promote your strengths. “We are always telling our clients how good our food is and what a great deal it is – and they always agree. It’s important to make that kind of a claim – but only if it’s true, and in our case, it is.”

#2. Know your customers. “You need to be interested and attentive to everyone who walks through the door on both a personal and professional level. But that interest has to be genuine.”

#3. Like what you do. “It takes love and acceptance of what you do to keep employee morale high and make your customers feel welcome when they come in the store. This is a business like any other – it functions best with a positive, winning attitude.”

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