In a new “grocery store” inside a college in the Atlanta area, there are freezers full of fish, burgers and pizza, refrigerators full of eggs and produce, shelves of clothes. and toiletries and stacked boxes of brand new Adidas and Nike sneakers.
The best part about this store? Everything is free.
“It’s like stepping into a mini Walmart,” John Madden, principal of Ronald E. McNair Middle School in College Park, Georgia, told TODAY.
And for the families at his school, it’s more important than ever.
âEven before the pandemic we had great poverty, but the pandemic has really hit a lot of our families,â Madden said. âOur students have been through a lot. Our children will say, ‘I didn’t eat last night’ or ‘My lights are out’ or ‘I’m living with my cousin or my aunt because I don’t’ have room to. the moment. âThis store will give them some relief.â
The store was organized by Jasmine Crowe, founder of Goodr, an organization dedicated to the fight against food waste and hunger. She teamed up with rapper Gunna, a former college student, to help fund the store.
Crowe has said TODAY that she has been hosting pop-up grocery stores in food deserts for the past five years, but this is the first at a school – and the first that’s going to be permanent, thanks to donations from the rapper.
âI learned a lot about the community and how great the need is,â Crowe said. “It’s something I just decided to do and created it from scratch.”
Crowe and Madden say the store’s association with the rapper – it’s called âGunna’s Drip Closet and Goodr Grocery Storeâ – helps eradicate any shame or stigma students might associate with bringing the free items home. . Crowe’s organization also provided each student with a reusable grocery bag to use while shopping at the store.
âOur hope was that now if you see a child with this bag you just don’t know what’s in it because you have one too,â she said.
Ronald E. McNair Middle School is a Title I school, a government honor that means it has a large number of students from low-income families.
Parents can place orders on the Goodr website, then their kids can pick up the items when they are at school and take them home. If they do not have Internet access, parents can enroll in school instead. The store has only been open for a few days, and Crowe said she’s had several requests already – and, to her surprise, not all of them were for chic sneakers or new clothes. They were all asking for food.
âSeeing those first requests, each of them asking for food, it changed my life,â she said. “Because that’s when I knew what we were doing was necessary.”
Gunna has yet to respond to TODAY’s request for comment, but he shared a video on Instagram of him visiting the school for the store’s opening ceremony. He told Crowe he was going to fund the store indefinitely, she said.
Crowe, who lives in Atlanta, has struggled with food insecurity for more than a decade. Before starting Goodr, she prepared meals for the homeless every weekend outside of her apartment. âEverybody Eats,â a children’s book on hunger that she wrote, comes out next month; its proceeds will benefit more grocery stores and community programs to feed people.
In recent years, free âshopsâ have become a means of targeting people who live in food deserts and economically disadvantaged areas.
A similar store opened at a high school in Texas in January. There, students use points (awarded to each student based on their family size, with additional points awarded for good performance) instead of money to purchase food and toiletries.
Crowe said she would like to open more stores in schools – and she is already thinking about how to do that.
“I’ve reached out to just about every rapper you can think of to say, ‘Hey, we could do that in your hometown,'” she said. “Rappers in Memphis, Miami, Houston and New York. I contacted about 40 of them.”