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Apr 28, 2017
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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What I Do: Jeremy Goss of The St. Louis MetroMarket

April 4th 08:04am, 2016

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A year before graduating from med school, Jeremy Goss took a year off to renovate a city bus. Along with Colin Dowling and Tej Azad, Goss founded The St. Louis MetroMarket, a nonprofit mobile farmers market serving St. Louisans living in food deserts. Goss recently turned over executive directorship to the first full-time employee, and he’ll graduate as Dr. Goss when MetroMarket hits the road in May. Here, his plan for tackling barriers to nutritious food in St. Louis.

 

What is a food desert?
The USDA defines food deserts as communities where there are no grocery stores (within) at least a mile, if you’re in the city. A majority of the people who live in these communities are either at or below the poverty line. Coinciding with that, many don’t have reliable access to transportation.

You’re a doctor, not an entrepreneur or social worker. How was this your problem?
There’s a great deal of preventable illness caused or made worse by unhealthy eating and inactive living. … If you live in a food desert, you don’t have a grocery store. It’s like I’m giving you a prescription, but you don’t have a pharmacy. So I can’t expect you to be able to eat fruits and vegetables and follow my plate recommendations when the only options available to you are fast foods.

JeffVanderLou in north St. Louis is the first neighborhood MetroMarket will serve. Why this area?
When we came together we realized that there have been a lot of other initiatives … that haven’t been as successful because they didn’t include the communities. We don’t bring the MetroMarket into a community unless we’ve been invited in first. The first invitation came from JeffVanderLou.

What farms do you work with?
There are a number: Double Star Farms and Good Life Growing. … Then there’s cool community gardens that we source from, (including) Urban Harvest STL … and Tillie’s Corner at JeffVanderLou, so some of the food that’s grown in these communities can end up on the bus and on the tables of the families who live there.

Is any produce donated or sold to MetroMarket at reduced price?
I wish! (No) in order for us to grow and be sustainable, we have to make sure that the organizations that we work with are also growing and sustainable, and the best way to ensure that is to make sure that we offer the best price we can for those fruits and vegetables.

Farmers markets can be pricey. How can people in a food desert afford to shop at MetroMarket?
We use a sliding-scale membership model. To be able to offer the best prices to the people who desperately need them, we ask those in a position to pay a little more to do so. We sell local produce at cost in low-income communities because we know that in addition to providing access, we also have to provide affordability.

What has been the most difficult part of this project?
Of all the business negotiations and corporate deals that we’ve had to do in the past three or so years, the hardest one had to be convincing my mom and dad to let me take a year off of medical school. They’d worked so hard to get me to this point.

You came to St. Louis temporarily as a student. Why get so involved?
That you’re here, in my case for five years, that’s an opportunity to do something. Maybe not as drastic as starting a nonprofit, but maybe volunteering for one. … Even though these problems seem big and daunting, that shouldn’t be an excuse not to do something.

 

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

 

By Heather Hughes

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