Central City Concern Partners with My Street Grocery
By Jacen Greene, Ames Fellow for Social Entrepreneurship at PSU
Ray Thompson carefully selects a ripe tomato from the selection of produce at his local grocer. He scans a selection of ready-to-make meal kits complete with ingredients and instructions, then glances at a chalkboard listing today’s seasonal items. The only difference from his regular shopping experience is that Ray is not, in fact, at the store—he’s at a mobile grocery truck that set up near where he lives. It’s there as part of a new partnership between Central City Concern and My Street Grocery.
Creating pathways out of homelessness and selling affordable, healthful food. A for-profit startup and one of the oldest nonprofits in Portland. Clearly the perfect opportunity for a partnership, at least when viewed through the lens of Portland State University’s Social Innovation Incubator. The staff of Central City Concern (CCC) and the founders of My Street Grocery met through the incubator, a program that serves both startup social entrepreneurs and established organizational intrapreneurs. By facilitating engagement among a diversity of organizations focused on social impact, the incubator seeks to establish exactly the type of joint learning and effective partnerships as that between CCC and My Street Grocery.
My Street Grocery is a mobile grocer that provides healthful, affordable groceries and meal kits complete with ingredients and instructions for about $3 per serving. Eating well can be a huge struggle for those living in poverty due to a combination of factors: distant grocery stores, limited transportation options, a perception of higher costs, and a lack of time and knowledge to prepare healthy meals at home. By addressing all of these barriers, My Street Grocery can make healthier choices cheaper, easier, and more available across the city.
The newest of My Street Grocery’s twelve pop-up grocery locations serves the general public, but targets clients and tenants of CCC as part of a pilot program each Monday in September (1:30–2:30 p.m. at NW Broadway and Couch). CCC works to address homelessness through a comprehensive set of solutions: recovery and health programs coupled with supportive housing, job training, and employment placement to provide a complete pathway to self-sufficiency. Proper nutrition plays a critical role in this process, as described by Geoff Sittler, Occupational Therapist at CCC’s Old Town Clinic:
Many of the clients we see are dealing with chronic pain and their primary method of coping has been through medications. We work to teach people that medications can be just one option for managing pain, while lifestyle changes related to nutrition, relaxation, exercise, leisure and social engagement are all equally or more important depending on the cause of their pain. From my perspective, healthy nutrition is the key factor in all of these areas as it facilitates engagement in all functional activities in life, which is incredibly important to redirect our clients from focusing on their pain.
From using healthy nutrition as a tool to control pain, to using business as a tool to improve community health, the members of the Social Innovation Incubator are finding new ways to address some of society’s most pressing concerns. And that, in the end, is why the grocery store now comes to Ray.