After months of preparation, the first FRESH Pace Healthy Neighborhood Store is ready for operation at Rajax Food Mart and Meat Mart, located at 2327 Dr. Martin L. King Jr. St. S.
ST. PETERSBURG — The City of St. Petersburg, in partnership with St. Pete Free Clinic (SPFC), has launched a new program called the FRESH Pace Healthy Neighborhood Store Program to help set the pace for good health throughout the city by providing healthy food options to families living in areas with limited access to nutritious foods.
After months of preparation, the first FRESH Pace Healthy Neighborhood Store is ready for operation at Rajax Food Mart and Meat Mart, located at 2327 Dr. Martin L. King Jr. St. S. Mayor Ken Welch, City Council Vice-Chair Deborah Figgs-Sanders and representatives from SPFC visited Rajax Food and Meat Mart to congratulate the store manager, Muhamad “Mike” Jaber.
“The FRESH Pace Healthy Neighborhood Store Program is a shining example of how we are putting our ARPA dollars to work and addressing my administration’s Neighborhood Health and Safety Pillar for Progress,” said Mayor Welch. “Through our partnership with St. Pete Free Clinic and Rajax Food Mart and Meat Mart, FRESH Pace will expand grocery store options in south St. Pete while improving access to healthy foods for families in need.”
St. Pete Free Clinic CEO Jennifer Yeagley said they interviewed more than 100 potential stores, investing significant time in listening to store owners to establish trust and transparency and to ensure engagement of the initiative is deeply rooted in the community.
“At SPFC, we believe access to nutritious food is a catalyst for health equity, and we are excited to partner with the City of St. Petersburg to certify Rajax as the first FRESH Pace Healthy Neighborhood Store,” Yeagley stated.
The FRESH Pace Healthy Neighborhood Store Program is made possible with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) through the City of St. Petersburg. As of May 2021, $45 million in ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds has been budgeted to continue the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to help drive an equitable recovery for residents most impacted by COVID-19.
Of the $45 million, $1.179 million has been allocated for Food Security, including the FRESH Pace Healthy Neighborhood Store Program and other programs. More about ARPA funding can be found at www.stpete.org/ARPA.
As part of the city’s commitment to systemically address the need for access to healthy food for families throughout St. Pete, the FRESH Pace program is designed to incentivize neighborhood stores in low-income, low-access areas to expand their healthy food options at an affordable cost to their customers.
How it works:
SPFC collaborates with local stores to establish infrastructure, marketing plans, and sustainable business models for stocking nutritious food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat proteins, whole grain items and low-fat dairy products or dairy alternatives.
SPFC also assists in subsidizing food costs for the stores as they ramp up this programming and helps business owners navigate the process of accepting EBT and WIC if they still need to do so.
Where did the funding come from:
The funding for this program is being channeled through the City of St. Petersburg from American Rescue Plan Act funding, which consists of federal stimulus funds allocated to continue the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to help drive an equitable recovery for residents most impacted by the pandemic.
The FRESH Pace Healthy Neighborhood Store Program was created to expand access to healthy food citywide. The City of St. Petersburg, Healthy St. Pete division and SPFC will work together to serve low-income, low-access areas with convenience stores that may not have readily available affordable, nutritious food options.
More FRESH Pace Healthy Neighborhood Stores will be coming soon to serve other communities in St. Pete. Updates can be found at stpete.org/ARPA.