Community-run corner market sets example, offering easy access to fresh quality produce, healthy food alternatives, nutritional classes and overall wellness programs.
By Cari Hachmann/ The Portland Observer
Dried seaweed and corn-free, gluten-free chips– two items found at few junk-food filled corner markets, are examples of the more healthy food choices offered at the recently opened Village Market in the New Columbia neighborhood.
The community-run “wellness center” is the first-of-its-kind in north Portland – A corner market turned holistic grocery store, featuring healthy foods aimed at curbing the onset of 5 chronic diseases; heart disease, obesity, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.
“We are trying to educate the community that there’s alternative food out there,” said Michelle Hanna, store manager and project contributor. “We created a safe haven that would appease everybody, especially those facing chronic diseases.”
Located on the corner of North Trenton and Newman, the Village Market replaced a financially unstable corner market that like most, provided little more than chips, soda, alcohol and tobacco.
With no grocery store existing within a mile of walking distance and discount outlets at least 15 miles away, the community expressed a strong desire for a full-service grocery store that was easily accessible, affordable, and provided more than just low-quality, high-sugar and high-fat foods.
The community’s call was brought to the attention of Village Gardens, a program offshoot of Janus Youth, who began laying out plans with residents, business consultants, and the Housing Authority of Portland in 2009 to bring the store into being.
In neighborhoods traditionally lacking in healthy food retail outlets, Jim Pritchard of Village Gardens said, “Improving access to healthy food,” was the project’s main goal.
Two years later, after visiting over 40 wholesale retailers, hiring staff from the community, and stocking all the shelves, the project’s main supporters celebrated the store’s grand opening on Saturday, June 25.
“We are here for the community,” says Village Market employee Trenton Oliver and Janis Youth volunteer. He says residents wanted to see healthier foods, including stuff they’ve never tasted before, like seaweed.
The size of your common corner market, but neatly packed with more organic products, the grocery store supplies meats, produce, dairy, breads, ethnic spices, fresh coffee, a selection of grab and go, healthy snacks for kids, and bulk items as well as household necessities; medicine, band aids, hygiene and cleaning products.
As far as health goes, there will be weekly nutrition classes, cooking classes, and close access to a fitness center down the street.
“This is very different [from the old store],” said Oida Tyler with three-year-old Sincere by her side. “There is a whole lot more”. Tyler walks one block to shop at Village Market 2 to 3 times a week.
Large square canvases of colorful paintings from the community’s young and old artists decorate the store’s far wall, above the fresh produce which comes a couple of sources, one being Food Works Youth, a farm on Sauvie Island.
More unique features include a small deli offering healthy soups, sandwiches, stir fry, and salads and dollar racks with handy kitchen utensils and kids’ toys.
Defending the need for a community store like this one everywhere, employee Candice Murphy replaces marked prices with sale signs, “Customers said some stuff was expensive, so we’re taking them down right now and making new sales.”
Village Market waits on the Oregon Department of Human Services to process their application to accept Oregon Trail cards, in addition to credit cards, and cash. WIC authorized, the store also plans to offer money orders, stamps, bus tickets, and phone cards.