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Pop-up grocery stores offer fresh food options for low-income Calgarians

When the cupboards are bare and the fridge is empty, the Alex Community Food Centre in northeast Calgary Is Tracy Ray Lewis' first stop.

"I am a low income citizen," said Lewis. "I just have to really shop carefully. I try to always come here first and only buy what i have to elsewhere."

The Alex is just one of the hosts of Fresh Routes - a pop-up grocery market - popping up at seven different spots in and around the city.

"We buy at a wholesale price and then we are able to pass those discount on to the customers," said Nikita Scringer, one of the people running Fresh Routes.

"All of our produce is about 20 to 40 per cent cheaper than you'll find in a grocery store."

Fresh Routes is a non-profit, meant to make groceries more affordable for those having a hard time paying their bills.

These days, that's a lot of people.

"It's for everyone right now, especially with the rising cost of COVID and cost of living in our city," said Scringer.

"It's important that your dollar can stretch as far as possible especially when it comes to food."

The point of the pop-up isn't just to help feed people — it's also to allow them to pick out their own groceries, a luxury not generally available when relying on food banks or food hampers.

"We believe providing people with choice is important, having the dignity to come choose what you are going to bring home, choose things you'll actually eat so there is less waste is really important," said Scringer.

"Instead of giving people a hand out, we want to give them a hand up. By allowing them to have the choice, we feel is really important and it's good for their self esteem."

Even though low-income shoppers may benefit the most from these pop-ups, organizers say everyone is welcome to fill out their grocery list here.

In fact, they're counting on it.

"We want people to come shop, even if you can afford to shop at another grocery store," said Scringer. "We want people to come to our market to sustain and keep it growing and keep our costs low."

Fresh Routes rotates where it pops up every day, and soon it will be hitting the road.

In January, the produce will be offered on a bus that will drive to neighbourhoods where it is most needed.

A complete list of the Fresh Routes pop-up locations and schedule can be found online. Top Stories

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