Food access, more so the lack of it, has been an all too familiar talking point, tension point, and point of contention in the Mahoning Valley for some time. As has been shared in previous stories (Putting Food Access Resources on the Map & Collab-blog: Collaboration in a Time of Crisis—Thinking Inside the Box), the pandemic underscored and highlighted barriers that exist between healthy food and families.
While the barriers to food access are many and varied, so, too, are the solutions.
Christian Bennett-Moseley and Kris Kriebel at Showcasing Fresh Produce at Cottage Market in Niles Fall 2020
As was shared in October 2020’s Moment of the Month, Trumbull County Partners Transforming Convenience Stores to Community Stores, transforming corner stores to community stores offers both immediate and long term benefits. And, the most difficult, essential, and rewarding part of that transformation is rethinking, reimagining, and recognizing the value of these businesses in communities.
The article cited above offers explanation, history, and testimony towards the fruits that can be harvested by planting these seeds about neighborhood C-Stores, as they have come to be known.
Sophia Buggs displaying freshly delivered produce from Perfectly Imperfect Produce at Common Goods Studio in Youngstown in April 2021
The Mahoning and Trumbull County Healthy Food Access Coordinators are doing the difficult work of not only finding resources and fostering relationships to move ahead physical changes to the stores and business owners they are working with. But, they are also cultivating ways to change hearts, minds, and visions of these physical spaces.
In April 2021, the Healthy Food Access Coordinators each marked significant milestones in their transformational efforts to bring produce into Mahoning Valley neighborhoods. In their own words, Sophia Buggs and Christian Bennett-Mosely will share stories of progress and produce and plans for the future.