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How a nonprofit grocer in a food desert is surviving coronavirus

The Daily Meal logo The Daily Meal 6/2/2020 Jacqui Wedewer
a person cooking food on a grill: Nonprofit Grocer City Greens Market in St. Louis Keeps Community Fed © Photo courtesy of City Greens Market Nonprofit Grocer City Greens Market in St. Louis Keeps Community Fed

For tiny grocers like City Greens Market in St. Louis, adjusting to business during the coronavirus pandemic was not easy.

“It really wasn’t a question of if we’re going to stay open, but how we’re going to stay open,” City Greens Market Manager Liz Essman told The Daily Meal.

Every day, a small staff of employees cleans everything that comes into the shop, stocks the shelves, gets food to the community, scrubs down every inch of the store and then wakes up the next day to repeat it all over again.

That’s the life of an independent grocer during the coronavirus pandemic.

City Greens Market was started in 2009 by a group of women in St. Louis’ Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, which is considered to be a food desert. Food desert is a term used to describe an area where residents don’t have access to affordable healthy foods. So even through a pandemic, City Greens felt the need to continue its role in offering fresh food to its community.

The store sells items at-cost, so, prior to the pandemic, the team ran mostly on volunteers. Now, a few full-time employees must keep the store running.

Food is sourced from local farmers and sold out of the charming storefront, where more than 100 members can purchase healthy foods via an income-based cost system meant to keep prices down while being able to pay for all of the store’s overhead.

The store has also implemented measures that include not allowing anyone except staff inside. Customers now have to place orders on the City Greens website and choose from a list of pickup times, which are spaced 10 minutes apart to reduce waiting in line and crowding the pickup area.

The staff also catches the deliveries outside the shop and then removes the products from the outside cardboard boxes to place them in their own crates before bringing them into the store.

On top of all that, employees also deep-clean.

Although restrictions are being lifted in the St. Louis area, City Greens Market doesn’t plan on easing its processes any time soon. Watch the above video to learn more about the life of a small grocer during a pandemic, and click here to see how many lives social distancing was estimated to save in major metro areas.


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