22 Oct Charity for Oct. 23-28: City Greens Market
City Greens market began in 2008 in the basement of the St. Cronan Catholic school building. A group of women from our neighborhood who called themselves the “Midtown Mamas” were discussing the difficulty of getting to the nearest grocery stores, and how expensive the food was, even though it wasn’t organic and came from far away. Many of these women had moved to St. Louis from the rural South, and brought with them a vibrant culinary tradition that valued cooking with fresh vegetables and creating well-rounded, healthy meals. Since moving to an economically depressed urban environment, they saw that their culinary tradition was becoming lost due to lack of availability of produce and the abundance of cheap, unhealthy, junk food. They could see an obvious link between the high rate of healthy problems in their community and the lack of healthy food options.
Their first attempt at fixing this problem was to organize a CSA program with Gateway Greening, a local organization that coordinates and supports community gardens. With a grant from St. louis Catholic Charities, they were able to make $30 CSA boxes available for just $3.50 to around 30 families in the neighborhood.
The Mamas decided that it would be easier to help people develop better eating habits if they had more control over what they were purchasing; if they could pick exactly what vegetables they wanted to try and only buy what they needed for the day. They still wanted to make the food as affordable as possible, however, so they insisted on selling everything without making any profit. They then went to the Tower Grover Farmers Market and met Michelle Wagstaff, a farmer from Silex, who agreed to work with them to develop the new project. They discussed what kinds of vegetables would be popular in the community, and developed a plan to have fresh, chemical-free produce and fresh, free-range eggs delivered to the church basement every week. The mamas would then go out into the community and invite their families, friends and neighbors to meet in the basement, shop for fresh veggies, share recipes, cook samples together, and just have a good time. City Greens Market was born. They knew that the best way to make a big lifestyle changes is to do it as a community – build friendships around healthy food and people would start eating healthier naturally. This is still the guiding principle of the market.
Today City Greens Market remains a beautiful example of how a community of caring and dedicated women can work together to fight the injustice of food access inequality. We hope to inspire and empower other communities to take their food supply into their own hands like we have done. We envision a St. Louis in which every neighborhood across the city has its own community grocery store that supports local agriculture and tries to make good food affordable for everyone.