Bridging the gap between social justice and the local food movement has been the core of City Fresh for more than a decade.
More than 400,000 people living in Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties live in what we call Food Deserts – whole swaths of our city where grocery stores have closed and left convenience stores and fast food as the only options.
The result is a health crisis. One of the most shocking examples of this is the rise of type 2 diabetes. Twenty years ago, in 1990, there were no documented cases among children. Today, half of all children born to low income families is expected to be diagnosed in their lifetimes with this completely preventable, completely nutrition-related disease.
This is the legacy of our broken food system.
City Fresh is a direct response – a community building effort that gets fresh, local, organic produce back into these food desert neighborhoods, and offers it at a price low-income residents can afford.
Our business model is called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. We are a subscription service that sells baskets, what we call shares, of fresh, organic produce. The food is grown within 75 miles and delivered weekly from June to October to our subscribers’ choice of more than a dozen pickup locations throughout the region. These delivery points are completely coordinated by volunteers, and it is that volunteerism that allows us to take the small profit margin on the basic $15.00 per week asking price (already 25% cheaper than the grocery store) and reinvest it to provide a low-income share price, a subsidized price, for families who need a little help.
With just 2 full-time staff, 20 farmers, and more than 100 volunteers, we have managed to deliver more than 125,000 of these shares in the last 10 years. And in that time, we’ve strengthened the regional network of farmers and open-sourced our business model, supporting the rise of more than 30 new for-profit CSA programs, several launched by our former volunteers.
We, however, remain the only CSA working in the food desert offering the sliding price scale, the option of ordering a single week at a time, and accepting Food Stamps/Ohio Direction.
We serve an average of 600 families each week for 20 weeks during the growing season. $0.81 of every shareholder dollar is paid directly to our farmers, compared to the $0.05 to $0.15 estimated by the USDA when consumers purchase from grocery stores. In total, City Fresh generates more than $150,000 of income for local farmers each year – dollars which stay in our region, bolstering the health and strength of our communities and our economy.