Bridging the Opportunity Divide

One Year Later: How America’s First Non-Profit Supermarket Is Faring

November 5, 2014
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One Year Later: How America’s First Non-Profit Supermarket Is Faring
Chester, PA's Fare & Square is the first non-profit supermarket in the country. Facebook/Fare&Square
There's a learning curve for a community that hasn't had a grocery store in 12 years.

About a year ago in Chester, Penn., a group of individuals started a supermarket. However, this wasn’t just any grocery store: Fare & Square is the first non-profit one in the country.

Twelve years ago, the last supermarket in Chester (a city about 15 miles from Philadelphia, where 31 percent of its residents live below the poverty line and the median income is $27,546) closed its doors, leaving residents with few food options. As a result, more and more residents relied on Philabundance, a Philadelphia-based food bank, but fewer and fewer donations were coming in. So Philabundance president and executive director Bill Clark realized that something needed to be done.

“We knew that Chester was a market in need,” Clark tells Next City. “When everybody can’t get food at a grocery store and goes to emergency food cupboards, that’s not a very good, effective way to deal with the problem, either.”

His solution? Fare & Square — a supermarket that will provide a wide variety of healthy options, as well as host special events where Chester residents can receive health screenings.

With a year under its belt, Fare & Square is now assessing its progress. So far, it’s been slow-coming as the owners try to adjust their products to fit their clients’ needs, which must strike a balance between healthy options and ones that are affordable.

Fare & Square’s managing director Paul Messina remains optimistic and views the situation as trial–and–error.

“It’s Fare & Square 1,” Messina says to Next City. “We’re still trying to do our best to keep our cost of goods down for the community, and we are making changes. We’re looking very, very closely at the product mix that we currently have in the store and seeing what we can continue to sell at what prices. We do feel that we’re going to need to eliminate some items that cost more money than we’re able to sell at a good cost for the community.”

For a community without much, Fare & Square is demonstrating that all sorts of possibilities are possible, thanks to food.

MORE: When Its Only Grocery Store Closed Its Doors, This Town Didn’t Have to Look Far for New Owners

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