Dayton co-op grocery store gets $220,000 donation

The effort to open a community-owned grocery store in northwest Dayton took a step forward this week with a $220,000 donation from CareSource.

The CareSource Foundation announced Monday the donation to Gem City Market, which goes toward the market organizers’ overall fundraising goal of $4.2 million.

Organizers have been fundraising for the cooperatively owned grocery store proposed along lower Salem Avenue, which would bring access to fresh and healthy food to northwest Dayton.

The goal is to complete the grocery store in 2019 in an area currently considered a food desert. A food desert is defined as an area where more than 40 percent of the population has an income less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level and lives more than a mile from a full-service grocery store.

Lela Klein, executive director of the Greater Dayton Union Co-Op Initiative, which is organizing the grocery store effort, said it is valuable to have a well known group like CareSource sign on to the project.

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“Certainly the capital is really important but at this point the partnership is pretty significant for us as well. It’s the ability of having a known entity say ‘We have vetted this project and we have looked at it closely and we think it will move the needle,’” Lela Klein, executive director and Co-Founder, Greater Dayton Union Co-Op Initiative.

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CareSource, a Medicaid managed care provider, which serves just shy of 2 million low income people, is also interested in ideas that address hunger and food insecurity, said Cathy Ponitz, vice president of the CareSource Foundation.

“We certainly partner with a number of foodbanks but we’re always looking for ‘What’s the innovation to help solve big, critical social issues?’” said Ponitz.

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Nozipo Glenn, a market member-owner and resident near where the market will be built, said it will benefit her and change her neighborhood to have a grocery store.

“Now that I’m older, disabled, and don’t drive anymore I have to catch two — and sometimes three — buses to get to a store where I can buy what I call ‘real food,’ which is fresh vegetables, fruit. It will make a great difference to me,” said Glenn.

She said by being community-owned market, the market will create neighborhood pride and could help attract additional development nearby.

“We are thrilled and honored by this extraordinary vote of confidence from the CareSource Foundation,” Amaha Sellassie, the Gem City Market’s Board President, said in a statement. “We share the organization’s broad vision of community health that includes food access and economic empowerment. Their long-term support for the Dayton community speaks for itself, and we are so grateful for their partnership.”

Michelle Riley, CEO of The Foodbank, said there’s 123,900 people including 36,600 children who report food insecurity in the Dayton region. That’s 18 percent of people in the Miami Valley.

Riley said its important for their clients who are the working poor to be able to shop for fresh food and vegetables in an accessible way.

“Those clients struggle with transportation. They struggle with being able to drive long distances to a grocery store. And they are using corner markets, where the prices are inflated and the food is not good, to supplement,” she said.

RELATED: How soon could a new grocery store open on city’s west side?

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