Food deserts are a reality in America. Drill down, and this is also true in California, despite the state producing the most food in the country. The USDA defines food deserts as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetable, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” Also, it notes, “This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.” Several individuals have chosen to actively address the food desert scenario at the ground level, effecting change their way. Los Angeles native Olympia Auset is one such changemaker, founding SÜPRMARKT in July 2016 to alleviate this issue of food scarcity in her own backyard.
Auset’s motivation for establishing this venture began with her personal experiences trying to eat healthily. “I lived in Inglewood where I would be on the bus two hours every time I wanted to get food, and there just weren’t a lot of fresh options around. I was also becoming raw vegan at the time, which meant that 80 percent of my food was fresh food.” She discovered a lot about the world and food systems during her first year away at college in D.C. as she transitioned to a vegan lifestyle. That’s also when she became aware of what a food desert was, learned about urban agriculture and started to care about health as a pathway to spiritual and socio-economic liberation. “A combination of these factors led to SÜPRMARKT being founded,” says Auset.
In the beginning, Auset started SÜPRMARKT to be able to help people with this newfound knowledge she acquired. But not satisfied with just that, she also wanted to provide the food that was needed to achieve better health.
As a low cost organic pop-up grocery servicing low-income communities in Los Angeles., SÜPRMARKT operates weekly at different venues, providing 100 percent organic produce to make health and healing available in communities that need it most. Since inception, more than 600 cases of organic fruit, veggies and seeds have been provided affordably in South L.A. – a community that has 1.3 million residents and only 60 grocery stores. The volunteer-run organization has Auset at the helm full-time, supported by a core team of 7-10 people. “I care about my impact on people, how many I am able to touch and get the food too,” she shares. SÜPRMARKT also accepts SNAP cards.
Auset offers groceries at affordable prices by working with the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative. “People don’t know that 70 percent of America’s food is grown in California, so we have lots of produce, but 40 percent of America’s food goes to waste. There is plenty of food here, and it is totally possible for it to be affordable if there is someone who is willing to sell it affordably,” says the 27-year-old. Proving her point, her monthly subscription box model is priced at $100 per month, and individual boxes are a reasonable $25 per week. SÜPRMARKT has built a consistent customer base and continues to attract more volunteers. In addition, its subscription box service bills 20 customers weekly and growing.
Auset has expansion on her mind, wanting to serve and reach more communities that are food deserts. A physical location is also in the works, with fundraising and finding architects being a priority. Education is a big part of the focus with plans for creating content videos on YouTube that will provide recipe cards so that people will not only know how to use the produce to eat healthily but do it in a way that is affordable.
While donations and subscriptions to SÜPRMARKT are valued, she highlights the one-for-one deal so you can pay for groceries for yourself and one other family too, citing her ultimate goal. “I want to create a culture of encouragement and engagement around health in intercity communities across America.”
Photo credit: Olympia Auset/SÜPRMARKT