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New co-op fills a need at Central Baptist Church: healthy, convenient and affordable food

Herman Smith, Bryant Kirby and Robert Redmond hold a sack of produce for distribution to coop members.
Robert Joiner | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 30, 2013: Yvette Batey was among those who showed up Saturday to shop at a new food co-op organized by Central Baptist Church in midtown St. Louis.  She left with a generous supply of  fruits and vegetables, including plutos and peaches, corn and cauliflower, and sounded delighted that her bill for two weeks’ worth of produce came to only $23.50.

“I live about 10 blocks from here and I had to take a bus,” says Batey, “but it is very convenient to have access to so many fruits and vegetables so close to my home.”

The co-op has 23 members, a number that marks a good start, according  to Rev. Alice C. Price, executive pastor at Central Baptist, 2800 Washington Avenue. She says she had been told that an initial co-op membership of more than 20 is always an encouraging sign. The church’s program is part of the St. Louis area Community Helpings Co-op.

“People are always saying it costs money to eat healthy. That’s a myth. We are offering food that’s inexpensive and of high quality at a convenient location. We are doing this to encourage people to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. We are doing it for the convenience of being able to pick it up at the church, and we are doing it for the cost.” Price said.

In addition, she says the program offers an added benefit to the area’s economy because the food generally is produced by local farmers. It is delivered to the church co-op every two weeks.

One co-op member, Montrice Williams, says she’s pleased because food offered through the co-op will reinforce her effort to encourage her young son to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables.

“That’s at the top of my list because I don’t want to pass on to him a legacy of hypertension and diabetes. So if I can teach him now about healthy foods and eating habits, hopefully he’ll do that once he’s grown. And I hope he’ll pass this information on to his kids.”

Another co-op member, Deborah Dalton, says the proximity of the program to her home is a plus.

“The big advantages are that it’s convenient and inexpensive. I live right around the corner, and it fits my budget. So there is no excuse for me not to have fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Central Baptist church members who volunteered Saturday included Bryant Kirby, Robert Redmond, Herman Smith, Yvette Batey, and Kirk and Joanne Silliman. The Sillimans, who live in Florissant, said the project represented an important outreach effort that focuses on helpful lifestyle changes.

“Childhood obesity is a big concern,” Joanne Silliman says. “Another concern is that people aren’t able to get healthy food at reasonable prices.” She says the coop will  make a difference in addressing both issues.

The coop is part of Central Baptist’s wellness activities and the Fit City initiative. Fit City began with north side health conversations held at Central Baptist and at New Sunny Mount Missionary Baptist Church, 4700 W. Florissant Avenue, where wellness activities are led by Rev. Clyde Crumpton. Programming on health and fitness will continue throughout the year.

Fit City targeted the north side because the rates of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in that part of the city are disproportionately high. The initiative  is supported through a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health,

Robert Joiner has carved a niche in providing informed reporting about a range of medical issues. He won a Dennis A. Hunt Journalism Award for the Beacon’s "Worlds Apart" series on health-care disparities. His journalism experience includes working at the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was a beat reporter, wire editor, editorial writer, columnist, and member of the Washington bureau.

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