On every third Saturday of the month, Antonisha Trapps, food cooperative manager for the South Side Community Coalition, opens the Store-for-a-Day, a produce stand that serves locally grown fruits and vegetables to residents on the South Side.
The store, located in the lot between McClure Avenue and McKinley Avenue, grew out of a need for healthy, fresh produce in the community since supermarket chains have deserted the South Side.
“The people [of the South Side] need better access to food,” said Brian Moore, employee at the Gifford Foundation, another organization responsible for Store-for-a-Day. “A lot of our money is spent outside of the community. We need economic empowerment. We need accessibility.”
P&C, the last supermarket to be based in the South Side, was closed earlier this year after succumbing to poor management and poor upkeep.
“[The managers] didn’t care. The food was outdated. The supermarket was not taken care of,” Trapps said. “I wouldn’t dare buy groceries there, but most people had no choice.”
With P&C now closed, the residents in the South Side must travel to the other side of town just to buy groceries to feed their families. And according to some, this is also part of the problem.
“Most of our stores are owned, run and operated by foreigners,” said Charles Pierce-El, president of the South Side Community Coalition. “This is not a Syracuse problem, this is a national problem. We are dependent on the government for our own needs.”
The Store-for-a-Day plans to curb this problem. As a cooperative business, the members, all of who are members of the community, are part owners and share in the profit. If the Store-for-a-Day is profitable, the money is circulated back within the South Side and is not bused away to a supermarket in DeWitt and places like it.
Trapps explained that the cooperative is always looking for new members. In fact, if they receive enough interest, they will also start a buying club. A buying club can save its members money on food because the members combine their orders, buy in bulk and pay in advance.
Each third Saturday morning before the store opens, Trapps is up well before sunrise. She ventures out to local farmers — and even gardeners — and buys produce in bulk below market price. An apple at Store-for-a-Day is 25 cents, comparable to an apple at a supermarket, which could be as much as 75 cents or $1.
But she doesn’t do it alone. The South Side Community Coalition works in collaboration with five other organizations to operate the Store-for-a-Day. The Working Group, Syracuse University Development Law Clinic, South Side Initiative, Gifford Foundation and the Groundworks Capital Coalition, or GC², have all been instrumental in creating and sustaining the project.
The goal is to bring accessibility and affordability to the people of the South Side. All of the products sold at the store are natural and thus promote healthy living and good nutritional habits.
“Our produce cuts down on obesity,” Pierce-El said. “We are giving our people a good product at a great price.”
Trapps has high hopes for the Store-for-a-Day. She and South Side Community Coalition hope to one day find a permanent home for the store. The coalition is currently exploring grant opportunities. What will it take to accomplish their goal?
“We need a partnership with the community,” Trapps emphasized. “We need to trust one another and build it together.”
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— Story and photos by Sadé Muhammad, a sophomore in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications