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Market At Eastpoint Provides Relief For Food Desert In Northeastern OKC

food desert

HAC/Homeland CEO: ‘The spark was the young people’

From staff reports

What began with a small group of committed students and neighbors – and grew to a fundraising campaign that included diverse partnerships – marked a milestone April 21 as The Market at Eastpoint held its grand opening in Oklahoma City.

Located at 1708 NE 23rd St. in the Eastpoint Development, the neighborhood grocery store addresses the food desert that had festered for nearly two years on the city’s northeastern side.

“The spark was the young people, it was the young people saying, ‘Why don’t we have a grocery store and why can’t we do it,’” said Marc Jones, president and CEO at HAC/Homeland.

Louis Stinebaugh, left, with the AWG Oklahoma Division, and Price Mabry, HAC/Homeland.

The regional grocery chain worked with RestoreOKC, an asset-based community development ministry, to formulate a plan for a public-private partnership that would allow them to co-operate the grocery store. 

Through partnership, RestoreOKC was free as a nonprofit to focus on fundraising and securing product donations and partnerships that could help sustain the store through its early years.

Contributions came in from across northeastern Oklahoma City. Life Church gave a $300,000 grant to encourage the pursuit of justice and mercy through food access. Neighborhood associations, individuals, churches, family foundations, the city, groups like Black Lives Matter and even Tony the Tiger from the Kellogg Foundation were pivotal in helping raise the $1.3 million that was needed for the store. 

“At the end of the day, this isn’t a for profit exercise for anybody,” Jones explained. “Anything that we’re involved in, we’re buying from AWG, at whatever our cost is. And that’s what the store pays. 

“AWG doesn’t make any money and we don’t make any money and RestoreOKC doesn’t make any money. And the nice thing is everybody’s happy with that, because the community now has a fresh food source.”

The Market at Eastpoint features an array of fresh offerings like organic fruits and vegetables grown on RestoreOKC’s 5-acre Urban Farm, which is led by 18 high school students from the community. 

In addition, the Eastside Eatery offers fresh baked breads and ready-to-eat hot foods prepared by community chef and leader Brandi Jones of the former Family Affair Restaurant. 

Northeastern Oklahoma City had been considered a food desert since August 2019, when its lone remaining grocery store closed. According to Jones, the resulting situation was not acceptable.

“At the end of the day, you got a quarter of our city – from a geography point of view – having to take a bus for an hour to go do grocery shopping…already in a community that not everybody has reliable transportation,” he said. 

“And they’re being forced to take their money either outside Oklahoma City, which is a detriment to how our cities get funded here in Oklahoma, or from an independent point of view, having to drive 20 minutes to a Walmart Supercenter. And they don’t want that supercenter experience…they would prefer just a small grocery experience.” 

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