Ujamaa Freedom Market wins grant from Whole Foods

NUTRITION ON WHEELS: Olufemi Lewis at the wheel of the Ujamaa Freedom Market, the rolling produce store she operates with partner Calvin Allen. Ujamaa recently received a grant from Whole Foods Market's Whole Cities Foundation. Photo by Cindy Kunst

Whole Foods Market Asheville announced on Thursday, Nov. 6, that local worker-owned mobile produce vendor Ujamaa Freedom Market was among 12 nonprofit organizations in the Southeast tapped to receive grants from Whole Foods Market’s Whole Cities Foundation. The grants were funded by money raised during the company’s quarterly 5% Day community giving event on Aug. 19.

Ujamaa was awarded a grant of $4,800. It was the only Asheville organization to receive one of the grants this quarter.

Ujamaa, which operates out of a repurposed school bus, specifically sells to public housing residents and other underserved communities throughout Asheville. Its mission, according to its website, is to “feed and nourish the whole community through access to healthy, fresh food.”

The organization also states that it aims to “promote social, economic, environmental and food justice by serving as a model for self-sufficiency while inspiring healthy relationships with food in order to strengthen the quality of life, health and well-being of the community.”

Ujamaa partner Calvin Allen, who is also a community gardener and a graduate of the Green Opportunities Kitchen-Ready program, says his organization plans to use the money for truck repairs and to make the venture more eco-friendly.

“We have a produce truck that’s running off a generator, so we’re going to try to be more environmentally friendly and  try to get it  fitted it with solar panels this winter,” says Allen.

The grant, he says, will give a much-needed boost to the cooperative market. “It will be a great help, because we’ve got a lot of needs for funding,” he explains. “This was our first year [in operation], and we didn’t really have enough capital reserves to keep running, but we did. We’re looking forward to having more stuff and better equipment for next year.”

Although individual Whole Foods stores normally select their own grant recipients from the local community, this quarter the company decided to donate the 5% Day proceeds from all 29 of its Southeast stores (in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) to the Whole Cities Foundation to be distributed among various organizations.

“All proceeds raised from this 5% Day will be awarded through Whole Cities Foundation grants to nonprofit community organizations in the South that support nutrition education and healthy food access,”said Asheville store team leader Tony Sgro in a press release.

Other recipients of this quarter’s Whole Cities Foundation grant are:

·         Friendship Gardens and Friendship Trays, Charlotte, North Carolina

·         Chattanooga Mobile Market, Chattanooga, Tennessee

·         Harvest Hope, Columbia, South Carolina

·         Tierra Negra Farms, Durham, North Carolina

·         The Vision Tree, Greensboro, North Carolina

·         West End “We” Community Gardens, Birmingham, Alabama

·         The Nashville Food Project, Franklin, Tennessee

·         Truly Living Well Center, Atlanta, Georgia

·         Landmark Training Development Company, Memphis, Tennessee

·         Farm Truck 912, Savannah, Georgia

·         Feast Down East, Wilmington, North Carolina


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