Asheville has recently been in the news for the adoption of its progressive regional Food Action Plan, which addresses food insecurity/security and access issues. It is no surprise that our town is making food security headlines again, this time with the story of two of Asheville’s local residents and inspiring sustainable food leaders, Tema Ayanfe Jamison and Olufemi Lewis.
Ayanfe and Olufemi, in conjunction with the Women’s Well Being and Development Foundation, are taking food justice to the streets by starting a cooperative business whose mission is to improve healthy food access within several known food deserts in the region. The project also aims to increase food education and improve the economies of the people living in these neighborhoods. The business, which has been dubbed “well-being on wheels”, is called the Freedom Market.
What is the Freedom Market?
This is how the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation describes the new cooperative Asheville enterprise:
“WWD-F is developing a worker-owned mobile market cooperative which will bring fresh healthy foods and other necessities into communities all over Asheville, particularly those experiencing poverty and lack of access to healthy food. The worker-owners of this business will themselves be people from these neighborhoods. In order to build and maintain a successful business, they will receive a wide variety of business training consultations and classes as well as planning stipends funded by the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation.”
Freedom Market’s plan is to bring supplies into areas where healthy food is hard to obtain. The residents of these neighborhoods live miles from the nearest grocery store, and often can not afford a car to travel to the store. Though public transportation is available, riding the local buses to the supermarket can take hours; hours which often are not available to people working and raising children. These resident often settle for low nutrition foods which are available at the local quickie mart where fresh vegetables and meats are absent, and junk food is in abundance.
Verve magazine also highlighted the important work that these women are doing to help improve access to healthy food, as well as economic sustainability:
“We’ve been looking at creative, effective ways to lift ourselves out of poverty,” says Ayanfe, a resident of Pisgah View Apartments and a former staff member of the nearby, resident-run Pisgah View Peace Garden. “The Freedom Market has to succeed. We are creating a business model that will not shut out people of color or people of low wealth.” Olufemi explains that “…this program will help build our communities nutritionally and spiritually. After all, you are what you eat.”
And the Freedom Market is not going to stop at food access alone; their mission also includes expanded health and wellness education, cooking classes, as well as bringing economic opportunities into these areas, all while earning a living-wage. The Freedom Market is also interested in sourcing the freshest foods by forming relationships with neighborhood community gardens; this will bring income to the local gardens, and will also get healthy vegetables to people who do not have access to organic garden produce.Photo by Candice Maliska