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Oct 17, 2017
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Colin Dowling’

What I Do: Jeremy Goss of The St. Louis MetroMarket

Monday, April 4th, 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

 

The Scoop: Mobile grocery MetroMarket to bring fresh produce to North City neighborhoods

Monday, March 30th, 2015

 

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Part farmers market, part food truck, The St. Louis MetroMarket is set to roll into North St. Louis communities in July. As reported by St. Louis Public Radio, the nonprofit aims to bring affordable, fresh produce, meat, dairy and more to St. Louis-area food deserts where nutritious food is not readily available.

Colin Dowling, Tej Azad and Jeremy Goss are spearheading the project with a $75,000 grant from Incarnate Word Foundation, and they’re beginning with the JeffVanderLou neighborhood. Goss said the community’s most recent grocery store closed in May 2014, and currently it subsists on three corner convenience stores.

Goss, Dowling and Azad partnered with Metro Transit – St. Louis, which donated a city bus to be retrofitted into a mobile food market. Seats and rails will be replaced with shelves and refrigerators, and beginning this summer, MetroMarket will open the door for business outside a community center and churches. The fresh produce, priced affordably, will also be eligible for SNAP and EBT benefits.

MetroMarket will source microgreens and fish from HOSCO Food, and it will source produce and more from St. Louis University’s department of nutrition and dietetics, which has granted MetroMarket access to same network of 65 local farms and 200 community gardens that source SLU’s some of its own dining options.

Goss also hopes to maintain access to fresh food during the week by working with those same corner convenience stores. “We’re approaching the corner stores that exist in these communities and building supplier relationships,” he said. (We want to) stock fruits and vegetables, match prices, make sure there are fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the week, and have impact beyond the time that The St. Louis MetroMarket can (physically) be in the community.”

Education and advocacy is also a key component of MetroMarket. SLU will host nutritional education sessions and cooking demos on market days. “Interns will provide demonstrations at the site when the bus is, so when we have the different produce, (the customers) will recognize it, taste it, know how to cook it, just get more familiar with it,” said Millie Mattfeldt-Beman, chair of the SLU department of nutrition and dietetics.

To offset operation costs, MetroMarket won’t sit idle during the week. Goss and his team will take the bus to corporate campuses, which can purchase memberships for their employees to buy the same market produce to help subsidize weekend sales.

 

 

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