Meanwhile, we’re spotlighting the work of awesome food justice-minded companies and organizations around the world. This week: Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery: a network of stores in Seattle that are a “hub for fresh food, community connections, and engaging experiences.” We spoke with Stockbox’s CEO and founder, Carrie Ferrence about the connection between food and community.
Why is the work you do around food so important right now in Seattle?
Seattle is now the fastest growing city in the country, at a time when the country as a whole is rapidly urbanizing. This growth is driving demand for a more centralized urban lifestyle but many of our communities lack the essential resources to support it – resources like food. In fact, 70% of Seattle does not have access to a grocery store within walking distance of their home. And the traditional grocery industry is simply not designed to respond. Their inflexible approach is trapped inside a drive-up design that requires large footprints and large parking lots – even Wal-mart’s and Target’s urban models can’t get smaller than 30,000 square feet.
Can you share a brief story that demonstrates Stockbox’s impact on food justice?
We serve over 500 customers a day and my favorite part of this work is to see the diversity of customers who come through the doors every day. We serve hospital staff & patients; families living in subsidized housing to those living in well appointed condos; young couples who are just starting off to retired couples who are settling into an urban lifestyle. And our store resonates with all of them – we have built a space where the whole community feels welcome.
In what ways do people get involved with your work?
We’re a for-profit business that is working to make a big social impact. We have around 9 store employees plus additional support in our headquarters and with contractors. People have supported our work in various ways: providing discounted services, contributing to crowdfunding efforts or as investors, and – of course – shopping at our store.
What are the biggest challenges to your work?
We run a retail business so our biggest challenges have really been around the people side of our work. We just had an incredibly busy summer and we were pushing to get our team up to the right size and to then onboard new team members. We’d love to get to the point where we can actually have a reserve of potential staff to help us grow.
And on the flip side, what have you found most inspiring?
I love working in retail because you get to interact with your customers face to face. I actually love filling in at the register and talking to each of the customers as they come up to check out. It is a great reminder of why we do this work – the people.
Find out more about Stockbox’s work on their website.