The Kin Café and Market is a new initiative in Calgary built on the idea of encouraging food accessibility in the city.
The pilot project was created under The Leftovers Foundation, a food rescue charity that is aimed at reducing food access inequities in the city by using what they call a pay-what-you-want model. This means that although the coffee and food items have listed prices, people are encouraged to only pay as much as they can, whether that be under or above the listed price.
“That’s the beauty of pay-what-you-want, anybody from all aspects of life can come in and buy groceries that are affordable to them and in their budget,” said Paul Annunziello, the Kin program manager.
Annunziello has been working with The Leftovers Foundation for about eight months now and was recruited to be the project’s lead.
The Kin Market is full of fresh produce, making healthier choices more accessible to people that struggle with finding healthy food within their budget. Annunziello said that this is the main initiative of the project.
“I think, especially with COVID and people losing their jobs, the first thing that seems to cut back when you’re on less financial support is your food cost. Just the ability to be able to come and shop for your family within your own budget is important,” Annunziello said.
Annunziello also spoke about the importance of the café using the pay-what-you-want model, because although affordable coffee is not a necessity, it is an experience that should be accessible to everyone in the city.
“Even grabbing a coffee and a doughnut, sometimes that kind of luxury is put aside while finances are tight, so really this model is for everyone and we encourage all people to come and participate,” Annunziello said.
Dr. Dana Olstad is an assistant professor of public health at the University of Calgary, as well as a registered dietitian. Dr. Olstad’s research is centered around how professionals can use policy to reduce inequities in nutrition. She said that she thinks initiatives like this one could be helpful in the fight against food inequities, if implemented in an advantageous way.
“COVID has really opened our eyes to realize that people with lower incomes, lower education, don’t have the same opportunities as other people, and I think that as citizens, we need to be aware of that so that we can actually reach out and be involved and try to assist those who are less fortunate,” Dr. Olstad said.
Offering people who have lower incomes the opportunity to access healthy food for a lower price is really important. – Dana Olstad
Dr. Olstad did state that she thinks more research needs to be done on initiatives similar to the Kin project to see how they can reach their full potential in benefitting the city.
She brought up the idea of how the stigma surrounding needing financial support may prevent some individuals from feeling comfortable paying below the listed price for certain items, and how she feels it is important to make sure that the health and nutrition aspect stays highly prominent.
“Offering people who have lower incomes the opportunity to access healthy food for a lower price is really important,” Dr. Olstad said, “People who have lower incomes already are very highly reliant on highly processed carbohydrate-based foods because they are the cheapest foods in a grocery store. We want to make the healthy foods cheaper.”
As of now, the Kin Café and Market is temporarily set up in the Shawnessy YMCA; however, the café will eventually move into a permanent space in the YMCA, and the market will become a storefront in northeast Calgary.