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GROWING A HEALTHIER COMMUNITY Foodlink addresses the root causes of hunger by increasing access to healthy, fresh food in underserved communities. Through our Food Access Programs — the Community Store Initiative, the Community Garden Project, Urban Farms Stands, and Curbside Market — we are transforming neighborhoods by improving the availability of affordable, locally grown produce.

EAT FRESH, FEEL GOOD The Community Store Initiative

On a blustery day in January, a warm and inviting buzz filled a corner store at 352 Jay Street in Rochester. Stop One Meat Market, located in the heart of the JOSANA neighborhood held a grand re-opening, at which city leaders, key community members, and the press saw the end result of an incredible labor of love. Stop One was no longer the typical urban corner store. What was once a dark tunnel of chips and candy with a fortress-like counter now boasted an open seating area, cases of fresh produce, meat, and a WIC center. Stop One is the first of two pilot locations to partner with Foodlink as part of our Community Store Initiative. “I wanted to provide the neighbors a safe place to go where the focus is on fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Waseem Baji, owner. Foodlink secured grant money from Citizen’s Bank and the Low Income Investment Fund to provide Stop One with funding that included completion of SNAP and WIC certifications, internal renovations, new equipment, and a strategic marketing campaign. Foodlink oversaw the remodel – turning the shop into a safe and inviting place.

“Most of my customers, when they enter the store now, they say it’s better than before and are amazed,” said Baji. “A lot of people are invested in this store’s success,” said Mitch Gruber, Foodlink’s Director of Programs and Innovation. “We are excited to see new access points for healthy foods in neighborhoods that once were ignored. To end hunger, we need to have these partners invested in their own neighborhoods.” Recognizing the value of home-cooked meals and healthy lifestyles, Baji ensures that he always has a variety of fresh offerings in his store. “When customers need to cook – they need garlic, tomatoes, something like that – they stop here because I have everything for them,” he said. Foodlink continues to provide support for Baji and Stop One, including nutrition education, sourcing affordable produce, and promotional outreach. In the meantime, work is ongoing at the second store – T&K Mini-Mart on Carter Street. A grand re-opening there is expected in the coming weeks. Baji has high expectations for his store. He’s keeping prices low to keep customers coming back. “Honestly, I encourage everybody now, all other stores,” Baji said. “I tell them in some time they’ll see a big difference in their store. Hopefully, we’ll see this program expand.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren with Stop One Meat Market owner Waseem Baji.

Foodlink Spring newsletter 2015  
Foodlink Spring newsletter 2015