By: Katie Sobiech
This is the 3rd summer that Nino Judah, Owner of Mike’s Little Market, on Ira Avenue , has had a cooler full of fresh fruits and veggies, and a stand in the back for bananas, onions and other healthy foods.
And so far, it’s been a hit.
“It pretty much took off. It’s been really good for the store itself; it’s given it a different image as far as groceries. It’s not just a corner store selling tobacco and alcohol,” Judah explained.
It’s refreshing to see a colorful display of bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers and onions placed between the wine cooler and racks of potato chips and other processed foods.
Providing Access to Healthy Foods
In one week, 40-50 watermelons were sold, which was exciting for Judah.
“It’s very popular, given the area. There aren’t many stores around here. You can go up to Aldi’s which is 3-5 miles up, but if you don’t have a ride or way to get there you can’t get your staple items,” Judah said.
Jessica Holly and her sons Jason and Noah frequently visit the store.
“Aldi’s is a ways and [another store]’s prices are way too high, so coming here to get the produce is awesome,” Holly said. Now that fresh produce is available, Holly says she has noticed a healthier change in her families eating habits.
“It used to be chips and stuff but now they get the strawberries, bananas and grapes,” she said, happily.
Corner Store Projects
Akron Summit Community Action (ASCA) is working hard to eliminate the issue of food insecurities in the Akron area.
“One of the issues for us is lack of access to good, nutritional, healthy foods. And one of the challenges we had in the Summit Lake community is they lacked green grocer outlets,” Veronica Sims, Administrator of Special Projects and Governor Affairs at ASCA, said.
ASCA came together with the Corner Store Project (an extension of the Summit County Food Policy Coalition) to open up refrigeration so corner stores, such as Mike’s Little Market, could carry fresh fruits and vegetables year round.
Taste it & Make It Series
But something was still missing…
“As a Community Action agency we also realized that you can bring good fresh foods in, but people don’t know how to prepare them,” Sims explained.
This is what led to the creation of their Taste it & Make it series, where they give samples and healthy recipes away, as well as interact with shoppers.
Being Present in the Community
Sims finds this important because “It brings resources to the community, giving them tools and skills that help them do the things that help them live a more healthy and productive lifestyle.”
For the series they bring in community chefs, utilizing everything that’s in the store, particularly the fresh fruits and vegetables to create a new meal every week during the growing season.
They also supply customers with information about the food and the health benefits of using certain kinds of herbs and leafy vegetables.
“The idea is that just because you live in an underserved community doesn’t mean that you can’t eat good, or there aren’t opportunities to eat better,” Sims said.
Along with these fairly new endeavors are their Talks in the Garden which take place every other week.
“So often we have programs and say ‘why don’t you come over here?’ What we’re trying to create here in this environment is to say that our resources are right in the community,” Sims shared.
ASCA currently supports about 6 gardeners in the area in partnership with Let’s Grow Akron, Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority and the City of Akron, as well as 4 families in their towpath garden who have chickens, gardens and hi-tunnels.
“It plants a seed and that is what growing hope is all about,” Sims shared.
If you are interested in finding out more please visit http://www.aksumcom.org .