Read the original story in The Oregonian here.
For those struggling to escape poverty, a trip to a well-stocked grocery store that offers healthy choices can be daunting.
The store often is hard to reach without a car, and it's difficult to haul groceries on mass transit. So low-income residents often turn to more readily available junk food or the nearest fast-food restaurant.
Central City Concern, one of Portland's oldest non-profit organizations for those in need, has come up with a simple solution – if a customer can't get to the store, then take the store to the customer.
The organization has partnered with a local startup – My Street Grocery – to bring healthy food to residents served by Central City. Called "a grocery store on wheels," the program started last Monday and has made shopping for fresh, healthy and often local foods a much easier task.
"We believe that eating well is an important and fun step toward a healthy, happy lifestyle," said Amelia Pape, co-founder of My Street Grocery, which opened for business last May. "Central City Concern's mission to provide clients with pathways to self sufficiency marries perfectly with our goals. We see a unique opportunity to deepen our community impact through this collaboration."
Adrienne Karecki, senior director of social and business enterprises for Central City, couldn't agree more.
"Those in the midst of recovery (from) alcohol and drug addictions are at a time in their lives when nutritious, affordable and accessible food is critical," she said. "This partnership with My Street Grocery will help our residents experience how good it feels to put healthy foods into their bodies."
My Street Grocery, a vision born of a class project assigned to Pape as an MBA student at Portland State University, is now a full-time business. Pape teamed up with Eric Johnson and Collin Gallison, both of Portland. The three raised funds through Kickstarter, allowing them to purchase a former bakery truck they now use.
"The mission of the business is to increase fresh food access to people who face barriers to healthy eating," said Pape, noting the store now serves twelve locations in the Portland area. Its location near Central City is one of the newest.
My Street Grocery will park each Monday through October – and potentially beyond – in a garage on Northwest Broadway and Northwest Couch.
Though the store parks there to be close to Central City residences, it is open to all people living in the area. The store accepts cash, credit/debit, SNAP food stamp cards and electronic benefit transfers. Information on its locations is available on My Street Grocery's website: mystreetgrocery.com
The rolling store offers a variety of fresh produce, foods and juices from 1:30-2:30 p.m. and then moves to another location. Healthy snack items are also for sale. But perhaps the biggest draw are the meal kits, which provide a recipe card and all the ingredients needed to prepare the meal quickly and easily at home.
"Meal kits are an important part of our educational products as they include all the ingredients," said Pape, noting meal choices frequently change, allowing for variety. "So far the most popular has been the Brazilian black beans and sausage. The boxes come in different sizes, some creating multiple meals, and range in price from $2 to $9.
A Central City Concern professional also will be on hand each Monday to help residents select groceries and talk about nutrition and the value of home cooking.
"Tenants have shown a real interest when we speak to them about nutrition and My Street Grocery," said Karecki, noting the store spreads information primarily by word-of-mouth. "We see a real increase in self confidence that comes along with making the right nutrition choices."
– Nancy Anderson