Rocky Fork Enterprise

Fresh Bag adds Gahanna to food outreach program

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Seasonal fruits, vegetables and other staples at affordable prices are available every Tuesday for pickup at Gahanna City Hall, 200 S. Hamilton Road.

The Fresh Bag program, operated by the Near East Side Cooperative Market, has added Gahanna as a delivery location from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays. All orders must be called in at 614-636-3726 or emailed to info@neareastsidecoop.org by 6 p.m. Thursdays for pickup the following week.

Jessica Roach, market director, said the additional Gahanna pickup site provides accessibility to a broader community base.

"It's open for everyone," she said. "It's a mixed-income opportunity. Food access should be available to everyone. We feel it's necessary to provide high-quality options for everyone. Through a cooperative business model, we can keep costs minimal."

Twelve-pound fresh bags are available for $15, or $25 for 22 pounds. They contain produce, staples, a newsletter, a recipe and health facts.

"The contents come from a variety of places," Roach said. "We're in season where we can get most of our produce local. One way people can have a good idea of what's in the bag is by being familiar with the local food season. While we can't guarantee strawberries in the bag next week, you know (it's coming) if it's the growing season."

Although Gahanna is slightly outside the cooperative's territory, Roach said, it was a good opportunity to provide another outreach point for community partnership.

She said the cooperative market is a product of a grant from the Columbus Foundation to address food access to the east side.

"The Fresh Bag program started prior to the store opening," Roach said. "The Fresh Bag program is the other tier of market. We were in partnership with Local Matters."

Local Matters is a nonprofit that works with issues of food sovereignty and community food security. With the support of a buying club, Local Matters wrote and secured a grant to open the for-profit, community-owned food cooperative market on the Near East Side.

The market is an operating grocery store at 1117 Oak St. It opened May 17.

"It's open to everyone in the community, and it's owned by community members," Roach said. "Currently, we have 100 members who have signed up for membership. We offer organics and local produce," she said.

For a family of up to four, it's $75 per year, $50 for an individual and $35 for those ages 65 and older.

A membership isn't necessary to shop at the store, but it provides a percentage off store items, Roach said.

"The ... market covers a large area, and Fresh Bag is an outreach distribution," she said. "Folks have an opportunity to order a bag a week with no obligation for every week. It's for easy accessibility."

The cooperative market accepts cash, credit cards, checks and the EBT/SNAP card.

For more about the Fresh Bag program or the market, go online to neareastsidecoop.org.

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