It’s been almost two years since we opened Carver Market in South Atlanta, creating a food oasis in a former food desert. We’ve learned so many lessons - including the importance of right-sized retail - during the past 22 months. But perhaps the biggest takeaway that inspires our next steps is recognizing that just opening a store isn’t enough to fully serve the neighborhood.
We have increased access to fresh produce and healthy food options. Still, we know some customers have struggled making the switch to healthier eating habits. We are learning that food access is a multi-faceted concept that certainly includes physical access, but is also influenced by financial access and social/cultural acceptance. We firmly believe that a truly effective response must contain all these elements to successfully get healthy foods into the hands and homes of low-income individuals.
We are so thankful to have incredible partners who share our vision and come alongside Carver Market to strengthen and expand its impact in our community. The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation visited the market on March 1st to present a grant that addresses physical access, financial access, and cultural acceptance of healthy eating. We are very grateful for their commitment to making healthy food accessible for everyone!
We are partnering with AFYF to address barriers to healthy eating in three ways:
#1 Multiplying 2-for-1 Produce Days
Last year, the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation funded 2-for-1 days, where customers using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) could double their benefits when purchasing produce. The results were instant! Among SNAP customers, we saw a 317% growth in produce sales when comparing sales for July, August, and September 2016 to the same months in 2015. And the effect was contagious as overall produce sales jumped by 50%. AFYF’s new grant will allow Carver Market to offer an two additional days each week to increase affordability of fresh produce.
#2 Targeted Bike Delivery
Many of our customers do not have cars and are limited not only by the price of produce, but also by what they can comfortably carry on a 15 minute walk. Bike delivery on our 2-for-1 days will expand our reach to neighbors who can comfortably walk to the store, but for whom carrying the groceries home would be challenging.
#3 Neighborhood Cooking Classes
This fall, Carver Market offered cooking classes using the Cooking Matters curriculum. We received some very positive feedback from neighbors, and we see a lot of value in offering additional cooking classes throughout the year. We are going to further strengthen the classes by featuring “heritage” recipes submitted by our neighbors. The benefit of these cooking classes will be two fold: the classes will promote healthy eating habits, and they will tie in the social element that is very much a part of food.
Since opening Carver Market in 2015, we have learned that food access requires a holistic solution. A local grocery store is part of the solution - and a big part - but there are other barriers that prevent low-income families from making healthy food choices, including affordability, transportation, and social/cultural connection. We are thankful to partner with the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation to address these needs and support a thriving, healthier community.