Epi'Sourire : Dijon, after the mustard, solidarity supermarkets !
Bourgogne-Franche-Comté - Dijon
Social ties in priority neighbourhoods
In 2007 Dijon witnessed the opening of its first solidarity grocer shop, Epi'Sourire. Three years later, nearly 1,200 families shop there regularly. Not just a supermarket, it works toward social integration of the disadvantaged.
It’s not easy to pay a child’s education expenses when it’s already difficult enough to assure them a healthy diet. This led socially conscious former banker Alain Metge and several others to open a grocer shop.
“It’s where the socially disadvantaged can do their shopping,” explains Alain Metge, the organisation’s director. “Guided to us by social workers, here they find traditional products that are three to five times less expensive than elsewhere and where they have a maximum purchase amount that cannot be exceeded that depends on their income.” Alain Metge came up with the idea to create Epi’Sourire while serving as a volunteer at Dijon’s economic solidarity cluster. At the time, there were no solidarity grocer shops. “We served our first customers in July 2007 after finding a location and canvassing several financial and operating partners.” These included the Dijon mayor’s office, Greater Dijon, departmental and regional councils, family allowances fund, food banks, etc. as well as the VINCI Foundation, which contributed €20 000.
Having solid support
Thanks to the gift, the organisation could build up its initial inventory and improve its facilities. “We continue to work together”, beams Jeanne Cartier, human resources director at C3B in Dijon (VINCI Construction) and the organisation’s sponsor. “We paid for first-aid training for one of the employees; our accountant also helped Epi'Sourire when it had a problem.” With solid support, the grocer shop has developed other activities, including food workshops. Theme-based, they are conducted three times a month by the organisation’s paid dietician and grocer shop members can participate by paying an annual fee of two euros. It’s a symbolic fee that makes membership in Epi'Sourire official and allows them to vote in general assembly meetings. Alain Metge, who is also president of Burgundy’s solidarity grocer shops collective, believes in the principle of “participatory democracy”. All this has contributed to the success of Epi'Sourire, which today serves nearly 1,200 member families, compared with 675 in 2008.
February 2010 © Reporters d'Espoirs news agency
VINCI Foundation works with Reporters d'Espoirs, a French news agency, to highlight and share the innovative social initiatives that it supports. The arrangement includes the writing of articles and exchange on topics that lead to solutions. Thus presented, the initiatives, validated using the criteria of the editorial charter of Reporters d'Espoirs, are intended to demonstrate their development and results.