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10 Questions with Fresh Routes: A ‘Getting to Know Our Calgary Social Enterprises’ Blog

Ten social enterprises have been selected as 2021 finalists for What’s Next YYC, a biennial award created by the Trico Charitable Foundation in 2019 to celebrate and advance excellence in social entrepreneurship in Calgary. What’s Next YYC features two $25,000 jury prizes, a $25,000 audience choice, and $25,000 the finalists share amongst themselves. The awards will be handed out on Thursday, November 18, 2021, at the virtual Pivot on Purpose Summit (POP). POP is a three-day summit hosted by the Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre at the Haskayne School of Business (more on POP at the bottom of this blog). To help the POP audience and others get to know these social enterprises better, this blog series will have each finalist answer ten questions – five basic questions and five from local funders. Registration is open now.

[box] Brief bio of Fresh Routes: Fresh Routes is a not-for-profit social enterprise that is focused on creating new, innovative ways of providing healthy and affordable food to as many Canadians as possible—especially those who need it most. Our Mobile Market ensures that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food, making the healthy choice the easy choice, providing under-served communities with a reliable solution to fresh and affordable food. Programs & Awards: Alberta Nonprofit Innovation Award, Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations; LEAP Centre for Social Impact. [/box]

Q & A with Lourdes Juan, Founder of Fresh Routes:

Lourdes Juan and Nikita Scringer, Fresh Routes. Photo cred: Kelly Hofer

Five Basic Questions:

  1. What is your social enterprise’s ‘origin story’?
“Fresh Routes began as a pilot project as part of the Leftovers Foundation. Our goal was to get healthy, affordable food to communities facing barriers to accessing fresh food with a pop-up market approach. We started in 4 communities a month and quickly grew in a short amount of time. The communities we serve are affordable housing complexes, Indigenous communities, post-secondary institutions and non-profit partners. Today we have two refrigerated trucks and retrofitted a decommissioned city bus into a mobile grocery store to bring healthy, affordable food to those that need it most. Our vision is that everyone has dignified access – defined through choice, convenience, affordability and cultural relevance to affordable, nutritious food.” 
  1. What are your current annual sales and annual social impact?
“Our annual sales are around $450,000. Operating year-round, rain, snow or shine, our Mobile Grocery Stores serve over 2000 Calgarians every month. Since we opened our mobile markets have saved our community members over $500,000 in an effort to build a sustainable, equitable, and inclusive food system.”
  1. What are you most proud of regarding your social enterprise?
“When the pandemic hit our communities, we mobilized our team to create a Covid Emergency Delivery Program. We ensured that interpreters were available as well as culturally appropriate food. We delivered around 100 fresh food baskets per week in Calgary and Edmonton.”
  1. What’s the next step for your social enterprise?
“Our next step is deepening our connections to communities and community partners and establish more connections directly to farmers to increase the number of suppliers to ensure variety, cost savings, and culturally appropriate food options at our mobile markets.” 
  1. What’s your ultimate dream for your social enterprise?
“The ultimate dream is to ensure our model continues to create dignified and innovative ways of providing healthy and affordable food to as many Canadians as possible. Our hope is that we can expand our model through Canada, especially to communities that need it most.” 

Five Questions From Funders*:

  1. When was a time someone showed you compassion and empathy?
“As a new mom, other moms reached out to help me through the newborn phase. Reading messages of kindness and support while I was up all night the first 3 months, was so helpful and meant so much.” 
  1. When you look at your origin story, what are the small moments you look back on fondly?
“I remember having conversations with seniors about how much they loved volunteering at the market, how it reduced the isolation they felt and how they loved having fresh fruit. They showed me that it was more than about buying groceries, it was about the relationships and the happiness it brought.” 
  1. In what ways has your social enterprise been reshaped by community needs?
“What the community needs is incredibly important to us. Our entire approach has been about co-creation with the community. It’s a conversation about what food they want to eat, when is a good time for them to shop at the markets, and including community in the process.” 
  1. How has your social impact evolved from what you originally envisioned?
“At first we thought Fresh Routes was solely about bringing fresh food into communities. But the journey has showed that it’s much more than that. It’s about conversations and relationships. Dignified food access wasn’t something we planned for, it was something that evolved from providing a service to communities that were underserved.” 
  1. If you had to describe it in one sentence, what is the “why” behind your mission?
“Because dignified access to food is a basic human right and we want to make sure that no one gets left behind.”

*The local funders that provided questions are:


More About the Pivot on Purpose Summit (POP): POP, occurring November 18-20, 2021, is a free, virtual gathering that aspires to be the next step in a movement to reimagine the power of business models to solve social problems. POP is held in collaboration with the Trico Charitable Foundation (TCF), the NU Community Board, and the Canadian Sustainable Finance Network. Registration is open now.

POP Highlights Include:

Tariq Fancy, former CIO for sustainability investing at BlackRock Alex Edmans, author of Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver both Purpose and Profit R. Edward Freeman, the thought leader many regard as founder of stakeholder capitalism
21 Canadian social entrepreneurs  Spotlight on Scotland, a world-leader in nurturing social entrepreneurship with initiatives including a 30 million Third Sector Growth Fund And much more! 
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