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Fast Company reports that in West Oakland, California, "one local organization is banking on the community to alleviate the problem" of being a food desert "by funding a startup grocery store."

Here's how the magazine frames the effort:

"The vision for the for-profit People’s Community Market sprung out of a decade’s worth of community food activism from People’s Grocery, a nonprofit organization that in the past has launched projects like the Mobile Market, a fresh food truck that drove around the neighborhood, and the Grub Box, a local community-supported agriculture box for residents. Despite the success of these initiatives, they weren’t enough to fulfill the food needs of West Oakland, which sees 70% of grocery expenditures from residents each year (about $40 million) going to other cities. A lack of fresh food also contributes to the 48% of residents that are obese or overweight."

When it finally opens on a site yet to be confirmed, the story says, "People’s Community Market will carry just 40% of the inventory of traditional grocery stores, with a focus on fresh food--produce, seafood, dairy--and quality prepared items ... The grocery store has secured two-thirds of its $3.6 million budget from the California FreshWorks Fund, a collaboration between the California Endowment and a number of partners that aims to bring fresh food to the state’s food deserts. But there’s a hitch: FreshWorks will only offer up the loan if the grocery can raise the rest of the money ($1.2 million) first. That last chunk of cash will come from the community via a direct public offering--a system where People’s Community Market sells shares of the company directly to California residents ... People’s Community Market has already raised $200,000 thanks to the large donor base from People’s Grocery. The direct public offering permit from the state is good for a year, so the grocery store has a bit of time to collect the rest of the money."

The story says that it has been determined that private capital simply is not available for a project like this, and that crowdfunding options - like Kickstarter.com - generally are not able to generate the kind of money that the People's Community Market needs.
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