RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A van parked outside Hopkins Store on Richmond’s Southside is making a special delivery. Fresh fruits and vegetables are ready to hit the shelves.
This delivery is part of the Shalom Farms and Richmond City Health District Corner Store Initiative, which takes fresh produce into Southside, North Side and East End neighborhoods that do not have grocery stores.
“I think it’s good to offer fresh produce because everybody needs some freshness,” says Latrice Ingraham, a Hopkins Store employee. “It’s better than getting it out of a can any day.”
Ingraham sees how customers literally eat up the produce and find new favorites from the selections that Shalom Farms brings in bi-weekly.
The program started to give people living in so-called food deserts access to more healthy options.
“It’s really hard to choose to eat healthy if you don’t have the access to healthy foods to begin with,” explains Analise Adams, the Program Director at Shalom Farms. “We’re really excited that this provides a really low-risk opportunity. It’s somewhere you’re already shopping.”
Adams adds that nine corner stores are enrolled so far, and Shalom Farms is actively recruiting others to join the program.
Store owners buy the locally grown fruits and vegetables along with some brought in from a distributor at prices lower than the wholesale cost. They can then offer it to customers for prices that are comparable or cheaper than they would find in a supermarket.
“It’s been really positive,” Adams says about the response to the Corner Store Initiative. “We’re really excited about working with community members to stock what they’re looking for. We’re working directly with community members and store owners to kind of make the fridge an access point that stocks the produce they’re looking for.”
Adams also mentions that Shalom Farms, which launched in 2008, rotates in and out some fruits and vegetables customers may not have tried before. The refrigerator and signage in each participating convenience store is supplied by the nonprofit.
Hopkins Store now also uses the fresh produce in foods it prepares at its grill.
Ingraham says it is a hit with customers.
“A lot of people eat with their eyes, so I think it’s better,” she chuckles. “I think people love it a lot when it’s natural versus out of a can. You get more business.”
Once or twice a year, Shalom Farms also holds events at participating stores. They include everything from cooking demonstrations to blood pressure checks and flu shots, adding to its commitment to make communities healthier.