Launched by five women from the 20th, this organic food store is accessible to all incomes
Saveurs en Partage, which opened on June 9 at 38 boulevard Mortier, sits on the slope between T3b tramway stations Porte de Bagnolet and Séverine. At first glance, this organic food store looks like the others that have opened across the 20th arrondissement in recent years. Clear plastic distributors offer an array of bulk dry goods. Pale wood shelves display local or fair trade products. Wooden crates brim with fresh organic fruits and vegetables from Rungis Market or the education garden at the neighboring Pierre Mendès France middle school.
But Saveurs en Partage is not just another organic store. It is the fruit of six years of work by five women to make organic foods accessible to people of all incomes, while empowering themselves and others in the neighborhood.
Aminata Ba, N’Daye Marna, Marie-Claire Peguet, Mina Hassaine and Samia Haddam met some six years ago at Les Lundis Femmes Solidaires, a weekly women’s workshop at the Archipélia social center, where they participated in “exploratory walks” to identify needs in the neighborhood.
“I said ‘What I’m missing is an organic store that’s accessible to low-income women,’” N’Daye says. A mother of five, N’Daye says she often struggled to feed her family fresh, healthy food. The organic stores on the rue des Pyrénées were too expensive, and Restos du Coeur food bank, which she depended on for nearly five years, provided only canned food. “No fresh fruits, no fresh vegetables,” she says.
Mina, who has four children, agrees, “It’s not easy when you have children. They need to eat well. They need to eat fresh fruits and vegetables to be healthy.”
Motivated by their experiences, Mina and N’Daye, then-stay-at-home moms, began meeting weekly in 2014 with Aminata, a home care worker, Marie-Claire, newly-retired educator, and Samia. They formed an “association” and outlined their project. They wanted to create a viable organic grocery store that would be accessible to people of all incomes and would be a meeting place. They also wanted to create rewarding, skilled and empowering jobs for themselves and others
“Showing that we are capable is at the heart of our project. Yes we can!” says Marie-Claire.
And they did. They found sponsors, obtained subsidies and took training courses. They researched competition, found suppliers and raised awareness about their project by attending neighborhood markets and events. They also worked with social workers and services from the Mairie de Paris to create their project’s keystone: a two-rate pricing system. This unique system gives recipients, referred by neighborhood social services, a 70% discount on essential products. So for a €10 shopping basket, these customers pay €3 out of pocket and the remaining €7 are deducted from a personal Solidarity Payment Card (CSP).
But as their project took shape, other organic stores began popping up across the arrondissement, forcing the women to rethink their plans to open in the Amandiers-Belleville neighborhood. The Mairie du 20e, which was helping them find a location, suggested the Fougères neighborhood, which lacked such stores. So the women took another exploratory walk and agreed that there was a need to be met. Yet setting up shop in this enclave between the boulevards des Maréchaux and the Périphérique, presents a challenge: “It’s a neighborhood where there’s a lot to be invented,” says Marie-Claire.
Since opening in early June, Saveurs en Partage (“Shared Flavors”) sees some 30 customers a day, and N’Daye says that “everyone who walks in the door says the neighborhood really needed this kind of store.” But the shop will need two or three times as many customers to be viable, Marie-Claire estimates.
As the shop finds its feet, Saveurs en Partage is advancing on its social and community goals. They’ve hired N’Daye to work full-time at the store and have just signed a part-time contract with Mina. They have also added one man, Kemy Mavatiku, as a full-time employee. Compared to his previous jobs at major food retailers, Kemy appreciates that “we’re not in the culture of results. The primary objective is not financial, it’s to meet the expectations of the neighborhood population.” At customers’ requests, he says, they’ve added soy milk, bulk chickpeas and almond paste to their shelves. They’re also working to meet a request by Pierre Mendès France middle school students to offer sandwiches and salads.
“It’s something to see this project come to life,” says N’Daye, “It gives me such pleasure.”