A Lutheran Towers resident shops for fresh produce at the new Goodr grocery store.
BY ELLIE HENSLEY
A grocery store stocked with produce, frozen items, laundry detergent, pet supplies and more has opened its doors at Lutheran Towers — and shopping there won’t cost its residents a dime.
Goodr, an Atlanta-based company that works to eliminate hunger and prevent food waste, opened the store at the affordable housing community on January 19.
We spoke with Alexandria Giles, Lutheran Towers director of supportive services, and Goodr CEO Jasmine Crowe about what inspired their innovative partnership, how the grocery store differs from a food pantry and how you can get involved. Read more below.
Goodr CEO Jasmine Crowe, Lutheran Towers Director of Supportive Services Alexandria Giles and Supportive Services Leisa Minor.
An Issue of Scarcity and Logistics
For the more than 200 seniors living at Lutheran Towers on Juniper Street near 4th Street, the free grocery store will be an invaluable resource, said Alexandria Giles, Lutheran Towers director of supportive services. It was Giles who had the idea to reach out to Goodr after reading that it had launched a similar store at a middle school in College Park, Ga.
“We noticed there was a need in the community, because many of our residents have a limited income,” said Giles. “Because our seniors do not pay for utilities in this setting, they receive an average of about $15 in food stamps a month. We had to find a way to keep our seniors healthy without making tough decisions. We saw Goodr doing great things during the pandemic and reached out.”
“We’re really excited to be at Lutheran Towers and serving so many seniors,” said Goodr CEO Jasmine Crowe. “I think this is going to be great.”
Transportation is another common barrier for people experiencing hunger and food insecurity.
“Hunger is an issue of not only scarcity, but logistics,” Crowe said. “I think bringing food directly to where people are helps to curb that potential time that they would go without having food.”
The 987-square-foot store is located inside a former storage space for residents.
An Independent Grocery Shopping Experience
Crowe founded Goodr in 2017 on the idea that if food can be delivered on-demand from restaurants, similar technology can be used to pick up edible surplus food and donate it to those in need. The company’s model also includes working with organizations and communities such as Lutheran Towers to open pop-up markets and grocery stores. This work includes planning, build-out and restocking of the stores throughout the year.
Lutheran Towers paid $50,000 to launch its grocery store, which included the cost of renovating a 978-square-foot former storage space in its facility with fresh paint, shelving and decorations.
“The area used to house storage supplies and some resident items from residents who don’t even live here anymore,” Giles said. “We did a walkthrough and thought it would be perfect for a store.”
Lutheran Towers has offered programs to address hunger and food insecurity before, but these food reclamation programs often offered food that was not fresh or too close to expiration.
“For a lot of people, they feel like [a traditional food pantry experience] is shameful or something they don’t want to take part in,” Giles said. “And the reaction we’ve gotten from our residents with this program is that they just feel like they’re on a trip to the grocery store.”
“This is truly a blessing to have a grocery store that is not only conveniently located in our building, but also free of charge,” said Ms. S.J., a Lutheran Towers resident. “It makes a big difference in the lives of residents during this time to stay safe during Covid and not have to worry about the increase in food costs.”
Frozen and refrigerated items are among the top "sellers" for Lutheran Towers seniors.
Assessing Residents’ Needs
The store is only open to residents of Lutheran Towers, who were each given a reusable grocery bag to use at Goodr’s store. They’re able to fill the bag once a week with whatever items it can hold.
Goodr procures items directly from manufacturers, shippers, grocers and farmers and its staff stocks them at the store every Monday.
“I thought a lot about what seniors like and what they would want to have,” Crowe said. “We were really clear about wanting to have vegan items, and low sodium and low sugar. That came from the work we’ve already been doing with seniors since 2013.”
Goodr also gave Lutheran Towers residents its contact information to make requests for what they’d like to see in the store. Each residential unit in the community comes with a full kitchen, and the store is stocked with items to cook a meal from scratch such as meat, seafood, grains and produce.
The store’s selection also includes other household necessities, such as cleaning and hygiene items, household appliances like mini Crock-Pots, bath towels and pet supplies.
“Our supportive services team has done a great job of assessing our resident’s needs,” Giles said. “We do allow dogs, cats and service animals, and oftentimes our residents will forfeit their own health to take care of their animals. Being able to provide them with dog food and treats is just one extra thing they don’t have to worry about.”
Help Seniors Thrive in Midtown
The Lutheran Towers Goodr store will always be free to its residents, but the retirement community will pay $30,000 per year starting in 2023 for Goodr to continue to stock the store. Previously, most of the retirement home’s funding has been through its benevolent fund and Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, its church affiliate across the street. To keep the store running past 2022, Lutheran Towers is looking to the Midtown community to help expand its donor base.
“We’ll need assistance to sustain this program,” Giles said. “It’s helping to bring back dignity and respect that a lot of times our seniors don’t have, and we hope to see it continue.”
Learn more about Lutheran Towers and make a donation here.