Atlanta—the Black Mecca, as some folks call it—is a place people of color have moved to in order to gain success. The city is filled with multiple Fortune 500 businesses, a budding economy, and it’s the home of the highly entertaining Real Housewives of Atlanta. In a place where you can bump into a celebrity at a gas station on Campbellton Road, the city’s homeless and poverty-stricken population is something that frequently goes unnoticed.
Jasmine Crowe, who founded Goodr in 2017, opened a free grocery store in Atlanta to serve impoverished families in need of healthier food options. She is feeding her community, one meal at a time.
According to NBC News, Goodr opened a free grocery store in Ronald McNair Middle School in September, after years of hosting pop-up stores around the city. Crowe collaborated with Atlanta native Gunna on the store’s opening, which gives families access to food, clothing, toiletries and more, free of charge.
Crowe spoke about what America is doing wrong in the battle to end hunger, per the NBC News report:
While the concept of an alternative grocer or “social supermarket” is new to the United States, the concept has been on the rise in Europe. Created as a way to aid fight hunger in Europe, social supermarkets are described as “surplus products that are supplied free of charge by retailing and manufacturing companies,” according to Project SSM in Europe.
In her 2019 TED Talk, “What we’re getting wrong in the fight to end hunger,” Crowe mentioned Denmark’s Wefood, which opened in 2016 as an alternative grocer. Unlike some of Europe’s other social supermarkets that restrict patrons by income, WeFood is aimed at the general public. Like other social supermarkets, the food comes from vendors with surplus resources.
Crowe feels that our country is going about its hunger crisis in the wrong way. Along with the high rate of food waste, the food that was served to the homeless or less fortunate at food drives was not well-balanced and did not provide them with the healthiest options.
“There was a big difference in this country between access to food and access to meals, and that most food things like food giveaways, we’re just giving people a lot of food that didn’t marry together, and didn’t actually make them a meal,” Crowe told NBC News.
The free grocery store at a Title I middle school in Atlanta isn’t the first time Crowe has fed people on a large scale. In Atlanta, she saw homeless people all the time, which inspired her to make a difference. In 2013, she started giving out food to the homeless in the city’s downtown area every week as a part of her Sunday Soul initiative.
“It just happened as simply as me driving through downtown seeing hundreds of people that were experiencing homelessness, and just decided that I wanted to do something to help,” Crowe said. “And so that happened in 2013. I went home, I put something on Facebook that I was going to start this feeding initiative. I was going to be doing it on Sundays. And I did it on that first Sunday. It just changed my life and I started doing it every single week after.”
In what began as a solo effort, Crowe would purchase, cook, and serve the food, sometimes feeding up to 500 people per week, NBC reports. She said money was an issue at certain points, but that did not deter her from her. So, as time progressed, she would receive donations from advocates and help from volunteers.
Crowe’s Sunday Soul inspired her to take a step further in trying to eradicate hunger in her community and beyond. More from NBC:
Those experiences led her to start Goodr in 2017 to connect businesses with nonprofits as a way to fight hunger and end food waste. Taking inspiration from food delivery apps, she created an app that allowed companies to itemize the excess food they have at the end of the business day, prepare it for donation, and have it picked up by a do-goodr (the title given to Goodr employees). The excess food is delivered to a nonprofit in Goodr’s extensive network. The motto of Goodr became “Feed more, waste less.”
Years into her work, the initiative started with Ronald McNair Middle School won’t be the last to fight hunger and food scarcity. Ashley Summerall, executive assistant to Jasmine Crowe, said that Goodr is in talks with another school in Mississippi to build another in-school grocery store.
Summerall said the focus is currently on Title I schools or schools with a large population that are below the poverty level.
The vision is for there to be different tiers of in-school grocery stores, directly correlating to the needs of that particular school.
According to NPR, the store at McNair Middle School will be open during school hours and close in the summer months, sending the excess food to families in feed in order to avoid waste. Currently, the store is available to anyone, as long as an email is sent to the school listing the items needed.
“Our deal is, if the food is there, we can give it away,” Summerall told NBC News. “We really don’t want to put a barrier on food because we have plenty of it.”
The hunger problem doesn’t just exist in Atlanta, but nationwide. Crowe hopes to put Goodr stores into more cities, and to assist people and organizations in need of food through the development of her company’s new app.
“We want to actually build some technology that’s consumer facing so people can use our apps to actually find food, if they should need it,” Crowe told NBC News.