“When we opened a free grocery store at the rapper Gunna’s old middle school in September 2021, we already had the goal of opening more. So we began thinking about who else could benefit and what other population has the greatest need. We knew from my work with seniors that a lot are experiencing food insecurity. I personally have been working with seniors for 10 years; providing food in senior homes and buying groceries for individuals myself.
We reached out to our network in the fall and started talking about how we could get the funding and where we could open a free grocery store for seniors. We chose Lutheran Towers in Atlanta because there was a perfect harmony there. They had some funding, my company Goodr had partners, and they had a space available.
We first saw their space in November and our original goal was that we wanted to open the store for the Christmas holidays. But at the time it was being used as a storage facility and there was probably 30 years of stuff in there. They had 8-track tapes and old school luggage; items that had been in there for years and had belonged to residents who were no longer living.
We moved those items into another storage space and cleared it out, then we painted, brought in lighting and changed the space. But just clearing it took almost a month with Christmas holidays and people taking time off. Once it was cleared, we were able to build the store in two weeks.
Like with the store in Gunna’s old school, where we gave a reusable bag to every kid, we sent every senior at Lutheran Towers a reusable bag with a flier about the store opening on January 19 and included some products in there as well.
One thing I thought about is how seniors have more time; a lot of them are retired. So I wanted to make the store something that they could really spend some time in. We then decided to provide rolling baskets so shoppers didn’t have to carry their groceries before we bag them up.
This store has a lot of items that are very senior specific. A lot of sugar-free products, low sodium items and baking goods. We have many items that our other store did not have, like brownie and cake mix, cornmeal, flour and oil. The very first day the store opened we heard someone say, “I’m about to make me some brownies!” I saw another lady taking a recipe from a tin of recipes we have and saying she was going to make some cheesecake bites. They were so excited.
We also have adult diapers, throat antiseptic, indigestion and heartburn products and denture cleaner. The seniors can fill up their shopping basket with items each visit and return as many times as they want.
The store is open Monday through Friday from 11am until 4pm and we’re talking about opening on the second Saturday of the month. During the pandemic there were a lot of stores that were open for the first hour or so just for seniors, but on January 19 a senior mentioned to me that this whole store is just for them. She said felt very comfortable being in the space. Maybe seniors don’t feel as relaxed being out in a regular store.
The funding for the store is a joint partnership between Lutheran Towers and Goodr, and Goodr procures all the goods, so we work directly with the vendors to get all the food and non-food items delivered and put out in the store. Every Monday we restock the store and on Fridays we do inventory. We also have a staff member from Lutheran Towers who works at the store.
It was important for us to help introduce people to new foods, so we’re having live tastings where we’ll have a chef come in and give the residents a demo. Our first one is on February 23. And, to really utlize the space, we created a recipe station in the store, using a computer that Dell had given us, cookbooks and recipes in a tin.
We had 50-75 seniors shop in the store in the four days after we opened on January 19 and 25 of those shopped on the very first day. That’s really positive. Seniors have said they’re really excited by the assortment of items and that they weren’t expecting that. The sad thing is that we have now received hundreds of emails from other seniors asking how they can come to the store….”
View the whole story here: https://www.newsweek.com/we-opened-free-grocery-store-seniors-1673072?amp=1