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- Marsh Grocery Cooperative Court
- Marsh Grocery Cooperative is on a mission to tackle food insecurity in the city’s Karondelet neighborhood.
The Carondelet neighborhood in St. Louis will soon become home to a community-owned brick-and-mortar grocery store. new project, Marsh Cooperative Grocery (6917 South Broadway), will celebrate its grand opening this Saturday with a vision of tackling the intersection of food justice and social justice.
Touted as a way to bridge the gap “between environmentally sound, nutrient-rich foods and affordability,” MARSH Grocery Cooperative will operate on a tiered model where shoppers pay what they can afford. According to Beth Neff, co-owner and founder of MARSH, the store will increase access to nutritious, eco-friendly foods, both geographically and financially.
“Food insecurity is a huge problem, but there are many other issues that prevent people from eating nutrient-rich foods or from owning a plot of land to farm,” says Neff. “People choose the food they choose because of very complex and interconnected issues. Here, we try to see what happens when we build our popular diet from the bones. We want to imagine it and try to build it rather than out of hypothetical models of how things work.”
As Neff explains, the idea for MARSH (which stands for Embodiment and Activate Radical Social Habit) grew up with her and her daughter, who were looking for a way to connect Neff’s background in food-based social practices with her daughter’s interest in cultural arts. Their ideas coalesced once they found a building in Carondelet that – although in need of serious rehabilitation – seemed to be the perfect place to set up a multi-faceted cooperative consisting of a restaurant, grocery store and online store. However, after taking over the building in 2019, they faced serious setbacks, including an epidemic and massive flooding in the basement that destroyed their expensive heating and water systems. This forced them to re-evaluate what they were initially able to offer.
“We had to switch gears that first year and start with the Grocery Co-op, because that was the most logical piece,” Neff explains. “We developed an online catalog, connected to suppliers and opened the cooperative two weeks before the COVID shutdown, which really sharpened our focus.”
In addition to managing online food collaboration during the pandemic, MARSH has partnered with local food stores and St. Through their work, they established contacts with other organizations in the city and learned a lot about how many different issues such as employment, housing, and food insecurity affect people in the community. Based on what they observed, they wrote a grant to the USDA’s Healthy Food Funding Initiative and received funds that would allow them to launch their traditional process to address these issues.
As Neff explains, MARSH grocery cooperative will operate as a traditional grocery store, meaning anyone can go in and shop for a variety of products, including produce grown in the property’s vegetable garden, meats and prepared foods. In lieu of prices, shelves will be labeled showing how much each item will cost the co-op to offer; When shoppers head to the checkout area, they will be given the option to pay what they can, whether that means more or less than the specified amount.
“The point of the sliding scale is that if you just look at things like quality and less environmental impact, for example with grass-fed beef, it might be better quality, have less fat and less impact, but those things don’t It means anything to you if you only have a certain amount of money in your pocket or in your EBT card,” says Neff. “Hopefully, having good food will help improve your family’s well-being, and you can decide for yourself how much you’re worth and what you can afford.”
While you don’t have to be a member of the MARSH co-op to shop in-store, Neff hopes people will join in and offer several ways to do so, including buying a one-time $100 membership, donating time, and automatically becoming a member after shopping in store ten. times. As I explained, it is the members who make up the cooperative and get the vote of the members of the board of directors as well as helping to formulate the mission of the organization.
MARSH’s grand opening celebrations on Saturday promise to set an exciting tone for the project. Fattened Café will come in handy with Filipino barbecues, Heavenly Sinful Delights and Yellow Moon will serve up sweet and savory goods, and there will be live music, kids activities and prizes. The event runs from 9 am to 6 pm
“We are very excited that this is a place of mutual benefit for workers, producers and consumers,” says Neff. “We’re ready to tell everyone we’re here.”
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