This Grocery Store On Wheels Is Bringing Fresh And Healthy Food To Low-Income Areas
May 17, 2016
It started with an ambitious idea: Bring nutritious food and wellness services to the heart of communities in St. Louis that need these resources the most, and to deliver those things on wheels.
Medical student Jeremy Goss and recent Washington University graduates Tej Azad and Colin Dowling are the co-founders of St. Louis MetroMarket, the area's first mobile farmers' market. With the help of a retired Metro bus, the nonprofit seeks to bring healthy food to low-income neighborhoods known as "food deserts" because of their limited access to grocery stores.
"We just grew frustrated with what we were seeing, that there were people who lived in the city -- and every other major city -- who didn't have a grocery store. And that's something that just shouldn't exist at this point," Goss said.
The bus, dubbed "Turnip1," is stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and bread from local farmers and community gardens.
Outside of the bus, workers and volunteers offer nutritional information and food demos that show customers how they can prepare the food sold on the bus.
In order to shop at MetroMarket you need a membership, or Fresh Pass, which costs $150. But this membership can be subsidized in one of two ways, either your employer pays for your annual membership or you live in a food desert community — a low-income neighborhood without a grocery store — and live below the poverty line.
"We take the revenue that we make from the corporate campuses, and use that to offset the work that we're doing in low-income communities," Goss said. "For every corporation we take on as a customer, we can subsidize this work in a low-income community."
So far, the corporations that have partnered with MetroMarket believe in its mission. Employees volunteer to help with the educational events outside of the bus and one partner, Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, even has its doctors write some unique prescriptions.
"The doctors will be screening and evaluating their patients for hunger in ways they haven't before," said Goss. "And when they find a patient that does need a resource, they're going to write them a prescription for fruits and vegetables."
When asked about his long-term goals, Goss was quick to answer:
"The goal for every non profit, I think, should be to put themselves out of business. It's always been our long-term vision that the work not be necessary in 15-20 years time," he said. "So our goal, in addition to providing immediate access to people in desperate need, is to advocate on their behalf on issues related to food, hunger, health and injustice. Because this is an issue of injustice."
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