A non-profit is partnering with community-based organizations to help serve a Bethlehem neighborhood that was left high and dry after its only grocery store closed last month.
"When south side residents heard that the Ahart's market would be closing there was an immediate concern,” said Anna Smith, who was born and raised on the south side of Bethlehem.
The grocery store on the 400 block of Montclair Avenue closed down last month. It had been in operation since 2001 and was one of only two major grocery stores in the south side.
"A lot of residents in the surrounding area who don't have access to transportation, a lot of older folks who walk to the store, "Smith notes.
It's the reason the Kellyn Foundation is bringing their "Eat Real Food" Mobile Market to Ahart's parking lot every Saturday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. until a new store opens up.
"It's just like walking into a grocery store; except in this case, because of COVID, we don't have the food displayed. So, we take order forms." said Eric Ruth, co-founder of the Kellyn Foundation.
The "Eat Real Food" Mobile Market accepts cash, debit/credit cards and EBT cards. Eligible residents can also receive a weekly certificate of $20.
"We want to make sure our community has access to the healthy food they need so they can live their best life,” said Dr. Meagan Grega, who is a family physician and co-Founder of the Kellyn Foundation. "Unfortunately, in areas that don't have access to a grocery store, the default choices are things like fast food, or takeout or corner stores that do have some healthy options but, maybe not as much as we would like to see.”
Ahart's closing sparked an initiative in the community to make sure people who live in the south side don't permanently lose access to a neighborhood grocery store.
"We started a petition to encourage our elected officials to do everything in their power to get a new grocery store for this location,” Smith said. “We had over 1,100 people sign on."
The city committed to working with the owner of the property to find a new full-service grocery store.
"Just last night we got the fantastic news that a new buyer has closed a deal on the store, and we'll be getting a new grocery store at this location,” Smith told 69 News as customers bought locally farmed fresh fruits and vegetables from the Mobile Market.
It could be months before the new store is ready to open. In the meantime, the "Eat Real Food" Mobile Market will help bridge the gap.
"Unfortunately, in areas that don't have access to a grocery store, the default choices are things like fast food, or takeout or corner stores that do have some healthy options but, maybe not as much as we would like to see,” Dr. Grega said.