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St. Louis grocery co-op gets boost from University Extension

University of Missouri Extension helped the Old North Grocery Co-op open in an underserved part of urban St. Louis.

As they picked out the apples, tomatoes and other produce that they would eat for the week, the Russell family took advantage of one of the first grocery stores of its kind in the St. Louis. It used to require a car trip or a bus ride, but now shopping for fresh produce in the inner city only requires a short walk for Nadia Russell and her children.

Old North Grocery Co-op opened its doors in 2010, closing up a food availability concern for neighborhood families.

“The nearest supermarket is just a few miles away, but if you don’t have a car like 41 percent of the people in this neighborhood then getting to that supermarket takes quite a lot of time,” said Kara Lubischer, a University of Missouri Extension Community Development Specialist.

MU Extension helped the co-op work toward its opening with economic development resources and assistance. Its focus groups found that residents typically rode 30 to 40 minutes by bus to reach the nearest grocery option, which creates what researchers call a “food desert” in the middle of urban America.

Prices are affordable and produce is either grown in the adjacent community garden or shipped in from farms within a 100-mile radius.