Long Beach Fresh, a nonprofit that brings fruits and vegetables to underserved neighborhoods, is asking the public for help to keep up a new program that stocks corner markets and liquor stores with fresh groceries.

The nonprofit has funding for the program through a $250,000 grant from the Long Beach Health Department, but because it can only access those funds through reimbursements, Long Beach Fresh is having cash-flow problems, according to co-director Ryan Smolar.

Smolar said they’ve had to put the fresh groceries program on hiatus until they can get the operating dollars it needs.

The nonprofit is asking the community to support them by donating on their website and — when the program returns — shopping at the six markets participating in the program:

  • Chestnut Market (346 W Eighth Street)
  • La Mexicana Market (2090 Santa Fe Ave.)
  • Mini Market Long Beach Snack Shop (2173 Santa Fe Ave.)
  • A & F Market (2569 Santa Fe Ave.)
  • Prince Market & Deli (6401 Cherry Ave.)
  • Cherry Liquor (6069 Cherry Ave.)

The program partners with local and regional farms to deliver fresh produce to markets concentrated on the Westside and Northside of the city. Before partnering with Long Beach Fresh, some of these markets were purely liquor stores with no healthy or nutritious foods for sale.

“We identified that local distribution was one of the biggest barriers to local food access,” said Tony Damico, Long Beach Fresh co-director. “We’ve definitely attempted to place this project in areas and neighborhoods that have the most need.”

Sarah Ssentongo, of Long Beach Freash, picks up fruits and vegetables at a local farmer’s market in Paramount, Monday, Dec. 4, 2023. Still video frame by Thomas R. Cordova.

On average, the life expectancy of Central, Westside and Northside Long Beach residents is several years less than their East Long Beach counterparts, according to a 2019 assessment by Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

Long Beach Fresh is looking to improve storefronts and install refrigeration for partnered markets through grants. They’re also pursuing policy change on the city and state level to incentivize those who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or CalFresh to buy California-grown produce.

The nonprofit is planning a series of pop-up events at participating markets in the coming months that will promote local stores and host local chefs to do food demos, said Damico.

Those interested in supporting or learning more about Long Beach Fresh can visit their website here.

Maison Tran is a fellow at the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected].