The goal of Grassroots Local Market is to strengthen the Lynchburg Community by providing a full service grocery store with access to fresh, affordable food to residents of downtown and the surrounding area. By forming a community owned and governed full service natural foods store, we will provide a one-stop shop for natural, organic, and local foods, help relieve the downtown food desert, improving the vitality of downtown Lynchburg.
Our goal for starting the co-op downtown is to provide a readily accessible community resource to residents living, working, and shopping in the downtown and surrounding area who want and deserve access to fresh high quality local food options.
Throughout the development of this co-op, the board has learned of food related challenges facing the City of Lynchburg. Many members and interested citizens have expressed their desire to see Grassroots Local Market develop a social mission that contributes to the improvement of the quality of life of Lynchburg’s most vulnerable citizens. The following items are focus areas for Grassroots’ social mission and directly affect the lives of Grassroots’ neighboring residents.
Lynchburg has been identified as having the single worst rate of low food-access in the state of Virginia. (Food Deserts in Virginia, 2014). The state as a whole has a low food-access rate of 17.8 percent while the low-access rate for Lynchburg is 26.4 percent (19,952 individuals), the highest in the state.
The presence of food deserts in Lynchburg’s most low-income, underserved neighborhoods has a profound impact on individuals living in poverty. A food desert is not just about low access to fresh food, but rather a combination of distance to a supermarket and low income which precludes a citizen from having easy access to personal transportation.
Currently, the Lynchburg Community Market is the only source of fresh, local food in the largest urban food desert in the city. The community market is open five days per week, but only operates as a center for fresh food on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The presence of Grassroots Local Market will alleviate the impact of downtown Lynchburg’s food desert. Groceries, including fresh fruit and vegetables, will be available seven days per week at affordable prices.
The City of Lynchburg’s poverty rate is currently 24%, significantly higher than the state average of 15.9%. A high concentration of poverty exists in the same neighborhood as Grassroots Local Market. For decades, this area has been without a grocery store. Despite its urban population and walkable streets, downtown Lynchburg is devoid of any grocery stores with fresh food options. Convenience stores are clustered throughout upper downtown, but lack any inventory of fresh food. Lynchburg’s citizens in poverty are especially vulnerable to the health implications of living in a food desert, as transportation to other neighborhoods can be challenging or inaccessible.
Grassroots Local Market is committed to serving Lynchburg’s underprivileged equitably. During the June membership drive, the co-op collected a significant number of donations for memberships that will be donated to families living in poverty through non-profit organizations in the community. This not only gives the resident access to member discounts and offers, but also gives voting rights as a co-op member and a voice for the future of the store.
Grassroots Local Market is committed to making fresh food accessible and equitable for all Lynchburg citizens. Grassroots’ has learned that educating Lynchburg’s citizens on preparing and cooking fresh food is important to the cultural adoption of healthier lifestyles.
Grassroots is planning to partner with organizations like the Lynchburg Area Food Council, the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension, and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to teach classes on buying and cooking fresh food. Grassroots Local Market has also developed a partnership with the Lynchburg Community Market to combine education efforts for a greater impact.