The NDG Food Depot & why community groups need to buy their buildings

photo of NDG Food Depot, Oxford side, withwoman looking at wall mural, outdoor patio in view
The NDG Food Depot, summer 2011. Photo Courtesy Fiona Keats and the NDG Food Depot

UPDATE MARCH 12, 2013

A new petition is calling on the City of Montreal and local city councillors to act now to find a building for the NDG Food Depot.

Earlier this week the NDG Food Depot told local news media it’s looking for a new space. Seems their landlord is kicking them out. They’ve only been renting part of a warehouse at 2121 Oxford, near the corner of de Maisonneuve since 1993!  But the landlord sold the building without giving the Depot any notice (they discovered the sale when they noticed a city inspector was taking soil samples around the building).

The NDG Food Depot is more than a place where nearly 700 NDG households per week come by to seek emergency food twice a month. [NOTE: My initial posting did not include the mention of 700 households per week. Their site says 700 people per week but during an interview with Mike Finnerty on CBC Daybreak, it was pointed out that when people come to the NDG Food Depot and register to pick up food, only one person represents a household – i.e. they only distribute food to one person per address at a time. That one person could represent a single person or a family of four or more, it all depends. The food distributed to clients a maximum of twice a month is supposed to last two and a half days each time. Seven hundred households per week is astounding, it just shows how much poverty exists in NDG]. It’s a meeting place that offers people a chance to learn about how to prepare yummy meals, garden, learn about community resources and break out of isolation. In recent years they’ve redecorated and vastly improved their space. They’ve launched garden projects and successfully formed links between their clients and the wider community.

They hold clever fundraisers, for instance there’s an annual Zombie Walk for Halloween, the Depot hosts meetings, workshops and film screenings, their annual Christmas food drive brings people together, they’ve been helping their neighbours green a shared alleyway and the Depot participates in an annual arts festival. They’re the creators of Montreal’s Good Food Box program, now run by Harvest Montreal with the NDG section of it still administered by the Depot. In over 26 years of existence they’ve truly added a lot to life in NDG.

The Depot needs a building with 5,000 (up from 3,500) square feet of space, “zoned to allow for the services” they provide and ideally, “located within the area defined by Monkland Ave., Saint- Jacques St, Cavendish Blvd and Decarie Blvd. Outdoor space and roof access would be an asset.” With real estate values soaring in NDG and especially anywhere near the new MUHC superhospital this is going to be a challenge.

When I first heard the Depot’s news I immediately thought about Chez Mes Amis, a community restaurant in NDG that disappeared after their commercial landlord took back the space Chez Mes Amis was renting on Sherbrooke St.. It became a call centre for Double Pizza. The community restaurant served meals at extremely affordable prices and ran a Meals on Wheels program. That loss is still felt today.

The NDG Food Depot’s story also reminds me of the experience one of my favourite cafes in Griffintown is currently having. The landlord tried to kick the small business owner out by doubling the rent, the owner won a court case but is feeling stressed and constantly worried about losing the cafe’s space and fantastic location.

The NDG Food Depot has a lot of friends and allies. NDG city councillor Peter McQueen is on its board of directors. Today on Twitter I noticed actor Jay Baruchel, who lives in NDG, advocating for the Depot.

Jay Baruchel on Twitter

I do hope that when the Depot finds new digs it sets its sights on buying the building. It’s doubtful the CDN-NDG borough will ever zone spaces as reserved for non-profit/community organizations so the next best thing is for groups to join together and own their spaces. That’s the only protection against a landlord putting you out on the street.

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The NDG Food Depot & why community groups need to buy their buildings

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