ALTON — Grassroots Grocery is a new venture that aims to provide healthy foods that are more accessible for everyone.
The goal is to improve health, self-reliance, community wellness and provide shared opportunities that will create jobs in the region through a nonprofit organic grocery store. The store’s items will be grown and raised locally, within a 50-mile radius.
“We really want to dispel the myth that eating healthy is hard or expensive,” co-organizer Sara McGibany said. “We want to also be a resource of information for the community and with the education we hope to provide, people can learn about foods they’re not familiar with, how to plan and prepare food, and also learn about the cost benefits of buying in bulk.”
The grocery items will be provided by local farmers who sell their products at the Alton farmers’ market, as well as individuals licensed to process foods or other items such as milk, eggs, cheese, and bath and body products.
“A lot of people would like to learn how to make their own laundry soap, or they don’t have the time,” McGibany said. “This will allow those same individuals who aren’t able to make their own to still have those quality products by purchasing them from the Grassroots Grocery store, made from someone else’s passion.”
Grassroots Grocery’s organizers hope to involve the community through providing education and outreach to individuals and organizations, and extending networking opportunities that contribute to the restoration of local, sustainable agriculture in the Alton area.
The Hunterstown neighborhood has been referred to as a USDA-designated “food desert” that doesn’t have a source of fresh and healthy food options at an affordable price. The neighborhood has to rely on organic food being shipped or residents have to travel to a location such as a health food store in Missouri to get the same benefits.
“The community is showing a good response to this opportunity,” co-organizer Christine Favilla said. “People are excited to have the option to come to our store to purchase items such as milk versus the option to go into a liquor store with their children because it’s close to home or a convenience store that might have higher prices for the same product.”
With the Grassroots Grocery store being a nonprofit organization, the neighborhoods, residents, schools, churches, local government, parks and other groups are the stakeholders.
“We have a goal to reach $50,000 to start the Grassroots Grocery,” Favilla said. “We are more than halfway there with almost $27,000, thanks to individuals and businesses that are donating. The goal of $50,000 will get the doors open as well as give us the cushion to operate for six months, allowing us time to get established.”
When it comes to businesses, location is everything. The co-founders say the Ridge Street location is the best fit. The store will not only serve community members; restaurants and schools will have the option to purchase fresh food in bulk for customers and students.
“We want to provide a great service for our community; we want to build the community,” Favilla said. “We think this location is an opportunity to help be a stepping stone to revitalize the Alton area and give our neighbors a hand in the right direction. The store is small in size, but we have an area in the back that we plan to use for bulk sales as well as a place for education.”
The store will be open to the public, but supportive memberships can be purchased to help the business’ growth.
“Everyone who purchases a membership will receive discounts throughout the year,” McGibany said. “We are now accepting memberships through business donations, too. If a business makes a donation, their employees will share the perk of being a member and will have that benefit, too.”
Once the goal of $50,000 is reached, the store will open its doors within 30 days. To learn more, become a member or make a donation, visit their website at www.grassrootsgrocery.org.