Grocery Store Helps Low-Income Shoppers Afford Food With Volunteer Program

Good Grocer really is a good grocery store.

If you're a low-income resident in Minneapolis, having fresh and affordable food doesn't have to be one of your worries. 

That's because a grocery store called Good Grocer uses volunteers to run the business, but with a feel-good twist: In exchange for 2.5 hours of helping out, they'll receive 25 percent off the price of their groceries. The volunteer program began when the supermarket opened this June, founded by former pastor Kurt Vickman.

He noticed that many people didn't have access to get to the chain grocery stores nor were they able to afford them. He first opened a food shelf at his church to address the problem, but ran into issues. People were only able to get a finite amount of food from the pantry while they still had to pay full price at the grocery store for the rest. Many had money for food, just not enough to cover the full cost — which is a huge problem when 17 percent of the area's children under 5 live in poverty

"We had to redefine how to distribute food," Vickman told the Twin Cities Daily Planet. "We decided to create a space that was somewhere between a food shelf and a full-priced retail grocer."

The store now has 300 members coming in daily, but you don't have to be one to shop there. 

Volunteers can work as cashiers, stockers or cleaners. It also offers child care services while parents make their food selections or work. 

Vickman also told the Star Tribune that the volunteer model helped slash labor costs by 75 percent, in other words, a win-win. They also have corporate sponsors that, according to the Star Tribune, have donated up to $200,000.

The grocer prides itself on selling affordable but quality food to its customers. A refreshing break in a cycle where the most healthy foods are usually the most expensive — a model that completely neglects low-income citizens from good food. 

The current poverty line for Minnesota sits at $11,670 for an individual and $23,850 for a family of four. Even if someone put in 40 hours a week at the federal minimum wage of 7.25 an hour, they'd only make $15,080 a year. This is why Vickman believes that those in the middle still need help and he's glad to be the change.

"When people are poor, others don't look at them as being able to contribute," he wrote. "But, everyone has something to contribute."

(H/T: Huffington Post)