St. Louis MetroMarket will target "food deserts"

To bring nutritious food and wellness services into the heart of communities that need them the most.

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.

But Jeremy Goss and his two partners, Colin Dowling and Tej Azad, were up for the challenge.

"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 explained.

The trio named their project St. Louis MetroMarket. It's a mobile farmer's market, that will travel to local neighborhoods without nearby grocery stores and with higher levels of poverty -- also known as "food deserts."

The project founders say they have partnered with several local organizations, including: St. Louis University Hospital, Cardinal Glennon, Operation Food Search, and local farmers. Goss said the bus will not only deliver food available for purchase, but also provide cooking demonstrations, and other resources the communities need.

"Because we recognize that these communities are missing not just food but -- after school programs for kids, and job opportunities for adults and so many other things that we are connected to other non-profit friends

Goss said the founders first connected for the project in 2013. In the time since, they've acquired and retrofitted an old Metro Bus, built a business model, and formed corporate partnerships. Goss said they won't go into a community with their services until they're invited -- out of respect for the people who live there, and also to ensure they know what the neighborhood needs before showing up with a variety of services.

They have started conversations with several places already, including Hyde Park, The Ville, Carr Square and College Hill. This past weekend, the bus visited JeffVanderLou for a "soft launch" before Christmas.

"We had a line of people around the corner who were patiently waiting to get on, and when they did-- they were quite impressed," he said. "And we were so very patient and humbled that the reception was so great, because the work that we do is all for them."

MetroMarket will formally launch in the spring of 2016.

Goss said they are supported by grants, but not dependent upon them. He said corporate relationships and, eventually -- food sales -- will provide a balanced business approach. While some partners will fund the bus on their properties and some clients will pay full price, others -- like those in poverty-stricken communities -- will be able to purchase the food at a discount.

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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