The Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op, or TPSS, is a grocery store owned by the community that shops here. Our cooperative business model reminds us that no one in our community achieves anything by themselves, we all grow and progress together. This GusNIP grant and our partnership with Crossroads will allow this Co-op to offer high quality organic produce, pesticide-free and grown in natural soil, and fruits and vegetables from local farmers right here in Maryland, to SNAP recipients at a 50% discount all year long. Everyone in every community deserves access to fresh fruits and vegetables and our project goals to provide that discount to 3000 unique SNAP shoppers in the next four years is both ambitious and achievable when we all come together.
TPSS and Crossroads partnered on a pilot version of this program in Summer 2020. I remember that summer well as a very difficult time to operate a small grocery store, but also for the lines. A local food assistance provider did food distributions from our parking lot, using boxes sourced and sent by USDA. Those boxes were a lifeline for the almost 10% of Montgomery County residents that found themselves food insecure early in the pandemic. The lines for those boxes began hours before the distribution was set to begin, and stretched around the entire footprint of our store.
Since that pilot program ended in October 2020 TPSS kept matching SNAP purchases on fresh fruits and vegetables with that 50% discount. We have matched over $94,000 in organic and local fruits and vegetables in the last 2 years. This GusNIP grant will allow us to reach many more people, pay our vendors fair market rate for their product and put healthy food on people’s tables. But most importantly, it lets people shop with dignity. As important of a lifeline as food distribution is, everyone deserves to walk into a store or a farmer’s market and shop for the food they and their family want. Food that is nutritious. Food that is culturally appropriate. The quantity and ripeness and size that they want. That’s what making our food system more equitable looks like, and that’s exactly what we’ll be able to do with this grant.
Covid laid bare the inequities in our food system for all to see. Over-reliance on nationalized supply chains. Underpaid labor throughout our food distribution model. Lack of access to healthy options. Burnout, stress and high turnover making it difficult to operate a business on already thin margins. But that stress test on the way we interact with food from the time it comes out of the ground until the time it reaches your plate also offers us an opportunity. A chance to do better. Programs like the GusNIP grant that will double SNAP spending on fresh fruits and vegetables at the Crossroads Farmer’s Market and the Takoma Park Co-op help to address some of these root issues. The Co-op and our suppliers can pay a living wage. It allows everyone the ability to access fresh healthy food at an affordable price. It prioritizes local growers at the Crossroads Market and here at the Co-op.
No one in our community achieves anything by themselves, cooperation is key. NIFA and USDA have provided key funding. Our project partners Crossroads will work hand in hand with the Co-op to make this program successful. The City of Takoma Park and community organizations will help us get the word out to residents that can benefit from this program. And we can collectively deepen the impact by helping other retail stores and community based organizations learn from our partnership. Two days before Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this project for the next four years and to see how many members of our community we can reach when we work together. Thank you.