New market brings 'food justice' to Grand Rapids

Jan 19, 2021

Credit WGVU

A new food market is bringing food equity to neighborhoods in Grand Rapids. The South East Market opened its doors on Martin Luther King Day, with the promise of offering "real food for real change."

The market, which sits in the 49507 zip code, lies on Kalamazoo Avenue, one of the most diverse spaces in Grand Rapids. Founder and Co-Founder, Alita Kelly and Khara DeWit, said they understand this area has been underserved for the past several years.

Their mission is to, "increase access to healthy, affordable and culturally-accepted food for our community through a sustainable and equitable lens."

The business leaders live this mission out by sourcing their products from Black, Brown, Indigenous, local or women-led farms and organizations first. DeWit said this is a way to close the historic racial gap that has affected the farming industry. 

"Back in the beginning of the century there was one in nine farmers, meaning a land owner person of color, but at the beginning of this century it's one in 100. The disparity as far as dispossession of land that has happened overtime has really highlighted the fact that there aren't a lot of growers who are people of color in this country. My ancestors, her (Kelly's) ancestors have worked the fields and tended the fields but without the possibility of owning them. Highlighting those growers is a way we can feed back into and build their generational wealth," she said.

The market also aims to support businesses that respect environmental sustainability.

While work on The South East Market has been underway for the past few months, DeWit said she and Kelly waited until the store could accept Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, cards before opening its doors.

"We want to be accessible to everyone. We've had a great mix of people come and visit, some neighbors a few doors down from us who are so excited that there's a fresh market in their neighborhood that they can walk to...It's been a great response so far," DeWit said.