To help students encountering financial difficulties and to promote food aid, La Grenade (FR), Sciences Po's participative and solidarity-based student grocery store, was inaugurated on December 13th in the presence of Mathias Vicherat and the Erignac family, who awarded the Prix Claude Erignac 2021 to this innovative project. We met with two members of the student team, Elsa Ingrand and Pierre Peyrelongue, to discuss.
In a few words, could you outline the genesis of this project?
The initial idea was to set up a participatory grocery store at Sciences Po where students can come to do their shopping, decide together which products should be available on the shelves, and run the store by signing up for shifts. The grocery store’s objective is to make quality and sustainable products available to students, thus allowing them to reclaim control over their food consumption by buying food directly at their university while simultaneously creating a space for mutual aid and community building.
The participatory model used at the grocery store allows all products to be sold at cost price, without applying a margin, which is beneficial for both buyers and producers. We are delighted that the grocery store reached fruition a few weeks ago and can now welcome students right in the courtyard of 56 rue des Saints-Pères.
The project was conceived of during the first lockdown. Faced with growing lines of students waiting to receive food aid, it became necessary to further our accessibility goals by including a food-aid component. This project is open to students encountering difficulties, who are identified by Sciences Po's senior management and then referred to the grocery store. These students have access to organic and local products at a lower cost (20% of the market price). We felt it was essential to build the grocery store's two components according to the same principles: access to organic products, the inclusion of beneficiaries in the decision-making process, and a spirit of friendliness.
How did you manage to turn the initial specifications into reality?
The initial specifications were drawn up in close collaboration with the Direction de la Vie de Campus et de l'Engagement at Sciences Po and our partners: the nonprofit Mon Epi (FR) for the participatory aspect and the Association nationale des épiceries solidaires, ANDES (FR) for the solidarity aspect. And of course with all the members of the grocery store during long brainstorming sessions on Zoom to reconcile our ecological, solidarity, and democratic goals. We would also like to thank the Crous de Paris (FR) for having supplemented the investment aid provided by Sciences Po.
La Grenade is a self-managed grocery store by, and for, students. Can you tell us how it works?
All registered students work at the grocery store for two hours per month. This can be done directly in the grocery store during opening hours, but also during deliveries or by collecting produce in organic shops for the solidarity component. We rely on open-source software developed by Mon Epi, which allows us to easily organize grocery store tasks and to support all new grocers in their duties.
Our decision-making bodies are open to all members who wish to get involved and we try to apply participation and transparency rules for all decisions regarding the grocery store's organisation.
How is your team structured? How can students get involved in the project?
The best way to get involved in the project is to become a member and carry out a monthly shift at the grocery. Our team operates with working groups: from product selection to activities, treasury, and the solidarity component. Each group is represented by a referent. The "products" group is a good example of how the project functions democratically: members decide together which new products should be added to the catalog.
You have become a permanent Sciences Po nonprofit association with this project. What are your long-term goals?
First of all, to institutionalise the grocery store within Sciences Po by making it more visible and by developing member loyalty. We would like to be able to open it to as many students as possible, and eventually move to a bigger space to have more choice and storage room. We also aim to organise events around the grocery store (conferences, workshops, screenings, tastings, etc.) to promote the topic of food at Sciences Po. Finally, we would like to carry out an impact study on our model–which is quite new in the university environment–to understand how to improve it and possibly implement it in other universities.
At the inauguration on December 13th, you were awarded the Prix Erignac, which honors a student initiative for its commitment to republican and humanist values every year. How do you plan to put this award to use?
We are very proud to have received this award, which will allow us to accelerate the development of the solidarity component. The first project is to set up weekly fruit and vegetable baskets priced at 1€. This will be launched in January 2022! Next, we plan to buy a cargo bike to collect unsold products in the neighborhood.
Interview by the Sciences Po Editorial Team
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