Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A "Small" Local Effort with Huge Potential

Corner Store Sell Fresh Produce
The Northsider
by Sylvester Brown, Jr.

Carrie’s Corner Market at 4500 Athlone Avenue
 O’FALLON – On a sunny weekend in late March, Carrie’s Corner Market at 4500 Athlone Avenue introduced a new line of products that produced robust sales. According to the store’s owner, a shocking 40% of sales that weekend were from these new products.

What are the products? Fresh fruits and vegetables!

The story is newsworthy because of the small store’s location. Carries Corner Market, in the 21st Ward, is located in what researchers define as a “food desert” — a typical low-income environment where there’s limited access to to healthy foods.

A joint effort by the University of Missouri Extension, City of St. Louis, and the St. Louis Development Corporation aims to tackle the barriers that prohibit access to food retailers and nutritious, healthy foods in local food deserts. The collaboration has led to the launch of a pilot program with three area corner stores — two in the 21st Ward and one in the 25th Ward. Suppliers on Produce Row have been identified and a fresh produce delivery system has been implemented.

Kara Lubischer, community development specialist with UMSL Extension, said the project was inspired by a 2009 USDA study that recommended working with small corner stores.

Through UMSL’s involvement with the grocery co-opt in the Old North neighborhood, Lubischer said she and her colleagues realized that other outreach efforts were necessary.

“The Old North St. Louis neighborhood was able to open a community-run grocery store but not every neighborhood in the city has the capacity to open grocery stores, nor should they,”