The Ujamaa Freedom Market, which promotes “Liberation through Cooperation,” is a worker-owned cooperative mobile market which brings fresh local foods to underserved communities in Asheville. According to its website, Ujamaa “promote[s] social, economic, environmental, and food justice by serving as a model for self-sufficiency while educating and inspiring healthy relationships with food in order to strengthen the quality of life and health and wellbeing of the community.” Co-owners Olufemi Lewis and Calvin Allen have been operating a weekly booth on Depot Street, selling locally grown food until recently. They are currently focused on the next phase of their project.
Xpress featured Lewis in the Sept. 25 Women in Business issue. Lewis spoke of plans to launch a campaign to purchase a bus and convert it into a mobile market. Since that story, Ujaama has launched a campaign on crowd funding site GoFundMe with a goal of raising $10,000 by the first of the year. Currently they are at 20 percent of their goal, with approximately $2,000 in contributions.
In mid-November, Lewis and Allen were able to purchase a bus. “We will use the money we raised through GoFundMe for the startup expenses required to get the the mobile market running,” says Lewis. “The bus needs to be retrofitted, there are insurance costs and supplies we need to purchase.” Once the mobile market bus is up and running, Ujamaa plans to serve lower-income communities throughout the city.
“In January, City Council passed the inaugural City of Asheville Food Action Plan,” said Gordon Smith, City Council member, and co-founder of the Food Policy Council. “One of the primary tenets of the plan was that ‘the city of Asheville believes that all citizens should have access to healthy, nutritious food,” he explained. “Too many of our lower-income communities do not have ready access. Sometimes it’s a transportation issue. Sometimes it’s a financial issue. Sometimes it’s an education issue. The Ujamaa Freedom Market seeks to address food security by bringing healthy, affordable foods to the neighborhoods that need them most. They’ll also seek to empower people to become healthier, increasing their opportunities for success. I’m thrilled that Calvin and Olufemi and all of the supporters of Ujamaa Freedom Market are taking action to increase food security in Asheville. They are hard working, committed people who will change lives with their effort.”
Nicole Hinebaugh, director of programs for the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation, points out that “Ujamaa Freedom Market’s approach to increasing food access among the most underserved communities in our city is innovative and brings the food to the people. I also love that they are organized as a worker-owned cooperative. This model of horizontal leadership is powerful and empowering.”
To find out more, go to Ujamaa’s GoFundMe page: http://www.gofundme.com/51o5yo.
The Ujamaa Freedom Market website is ujamaafreedommarket.wordpress.com, and they can can be found on Facebook as well.