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Healthy groceries in a trolley: Local start-up joins Whole Foods, brings food to you
Author: Melissa Binder, The Oregonian
Posted: June 5, 2014

Click here for the original article.

Something unexpected occupied the east corner of a Southeast Division Street medical clinic's parking lot Wednesday morning: A trolley, named Molly, full of groceries.

My Street Grocery is a health food store on wheels from Whole Foods Market that partners with Portland-area health clinics to make fresh, healthy food more accessible.

Amelia Pape co-founded My Street Grocery as an independent business in 2012 after developing the concept in graduate school at Portland State University. The store's first ride was a refurbished Franz bread truck. The start-up worked with non-profits, but after Pape's partners left she approached Whole Foods about combining forces.

The market's new Whole Cities Foundation aligned perfectly with her mission, she said, and she had a connection to one of the company's regional vice presidents through her graduate studies.

She traveled to Seattle to visit Joe Rogoff, president of the Pacific Northwest for Whole Foods. He was immediately on board.

"About 10 minutes into the conversation I said, 'Yeah, let's figure out a way to make this happen,'" Rogoff said.

And they did. The market hired Pape as a "food access coordinator" and created a mobile store almost identical to the one she ran independently. Rogoff said they kept the name "My Street Grocery" because people in the community were already familiar with it and some new customers might be turned-off by the Whole Foods brand.

The company purchased a used trolley from the city of Fort Worth, Texas -- Pape said "her name was already Molly" -- and added the market's 365 Everyday Value products to the mobile store's inventory.

The mobile store opened May 21 and celebrated the launch Monday in Northwest Portland. On Wednesday morning the trolley was stationed at Oregon Health and Science University's Family Medicine of Richmond clinic on Division Street.

The trolley will be open to the public four days a week, and the location varies by day. (See locations below.) The store accepts cash, card and food stamps.

Molly the Trolley houses freezers and refrigerators that store meat, dairy and juice, among other products. The shelves are lined with whole grain pasta, dried fruit and soups. Fresh produce, nuts and cereal sit on tables and shelves outside.

"I think it's a cool idea, and I think I'll use it," said Maydean Houston, who stopped by the mobile store after an appointment at the Richmond clinic. The 55-year-old started eating healthy food about six months ago at the behest of her grown children, she said.

"I'm noticing that fresh stuff... makes you feel better," she said.

My Street Grocery is "kind of pricey," Houston said, but not pricier than other health food stores.

Pape said the trolley is stocked with 365 Everyday Value products -- the company's most affordable brand -- to ease the cost barrier. Produce is priced per item instead of per pound to help shoppers understand what they'll be paying.

The five clinics Pape partners with also help cover the cost of healthy food. Two of the clinics -- Legacy Good Samaritan and Legacy Emanuel -- provide vouchers through associated foundations. The remaining three clinics are partnering with CareOregon for a six-week voucher pilot program that credits patients with a total of $45 to use at My Street Grocery.

Cost isn't the only barrier to healthy eating Pape is trying to combat with the mobile store. Signs encourage shoppers to ask for recipe ideas and offer simple preparation suggestions, such as "eat with or without the skin."

Rachael Postman, an RN case manager at the Richmond clinic, said it's not uncommon for poorer patients to be daunted by preparing fresh food.

"People grow up with microwave dinners," she said, "so they raise their families that way."

Here's where you can find My Street Grocery:

Tuesday:
10am-2pm at Legacy Good Samaritan Clinic parking lot, located at N.W. 23rd and N.W. Northrup

Wednesday:
10am-1pm at OHSU Family Medicine of Richmond parking lot, located at 3930 S.E. Division St
2-5pm at Legacy Emanuel Clinic parking lot, located at N. Vancouver and N. Graham

Thursday:
10am-2pm at Legacy Good Samaritan Clinic parking lot, located at N.W. 23rd and N.W. Northrup

Friday:
11am-2pm at Rockwood Community Health Center, located at 2020 S.E. 182nd Avenue
3-5pm at N.W. Couch St between Broadway & 8th Avenue

Here are a few prices from the mobile store:

Organic red bell pepper: $1.50

13-ounce can of coffee beans: $4.99

Sweet potatoes: 50 cents each

Jar of marinara sauce: $1.79

Apples: 75 cents each

16-ounce bag of organic dried green lentils: $2.99

Gluten-free bread: $6.59

-- Melissa Binder