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Gracie's

A digital, delivery and subscription-based co-op designed around farmers' markets and the marginalized, while serving the masses.

Photo of Christian Dixon
2 1

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

The ATLX Group, LLC

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Carl Joseph, Co-Founder

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Richmond, VA

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Richmond, VA at 162km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I am Richmond. When I first moved to Richmond when I was 6, I didn't realize that over the next 20 years of my life, I'd watch my mother help birth and my father educate generations while the city itself became unrecognizable and alienating to the same people my parents took from diapers to degrees. From the time my parents' purchased our first house to 20 years later when I bought my first one ten blocks away, Richmond's Highland Park neighborhood in the Northside has always held a special place in my heart. Of course, that's always meant swallowing the fact that Highland Park has always had something working against it in the grand scheme of things. 20 years ago it was the ridiculously high crime and drug rate, now, and even then it's food apartheid and gentrification running wild. My co-founder, Carl and I didn't choose Richmond – somehow, it chose us. Carl and I both live in two of the largest food deserts in the city, while simultaneously being the largest gentrifying areas in the great metropolitan area. What does that mean? There's a lot of minorities and marginalized people who will never in their lifetimes have access to a safe or artistically pleasing streets, beautiful green spaces, accredited schools with ceilings tiles that don't fall and – walkable or affordable grocery stores with fresh produce? It sounds confusing and borderline ridiculous but somehow that's the problem we're currently facing in Richmond - the haves have everything and the have-nots, well, have nothing. This place is connected to us because it's problems have affected us for generations. It's not just a vision to us, it's a duty and even more, a duty.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Richmond is bursting at the seams with ideas and innovation in the tech, social good and food/drink industry while also somehow managing to be an exciting place for art, music and outdoor activity. With its beautiful, yet underutilized James River flowing from pastures to a consistently developing urban scene, Richmond has changed so much in its existence and has just begun to scratch the surface of its full potential. The River City houses a majority minority population spread across all of its neighborhoods, but often times, these minorities are pigeon-holed when it comes to accessing fresh produce, entertainment, and jobs due to an unwillingness by developers to build in their neighborhoods without gentrification first occurring first.This is where the breakdown between social and cultural groups starts as Richmond has the potential to become a creative mecca – when minorities aren't allowed to participate in the creation of culture and shared meanings. Richmond is unique as its one of the largest food deserts in the nation. Specifically, Richmond could more so be classified as a city suffering from the deleterious system of food apartheid. Given the multitude of efforts from tech billionaires like Steve Markel in creating a grocery store in one of the city's biggest food deserts understanding they'll be losing a ton of money or the number of farmers' markets that pop up throughout the city, the city wants access to healthier, creative and exciting foods but aren't having their voices heard. The city is changing, hopefully so will the outlooks for the array of diverse populations and people living in it as it pertains to food access, accessibility and barriers to entry.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

227032

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Without repeating too much; Richmond suffers from food apartheid that stemmed from the creation of food deserts in all minority spaces that even with gentrification efforts, haven't fully been eliminated. As such, there is a city without access to many sources of food that causes all types of issues ranging from accessibility, having to choose between getting groceries and getting to work or paying a bill, the continuous failure to pass the Grocery Initiative legislation at the state level of government. Essentially, we're dooming minority residents by offering fast food options in their neighborhoods rather than grocery stores, farmers' markets or what's more, giving them the chance to choose which creates lifelong, detrimental habits that destroy neighborhoods and the health of Richmond's largest populations.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Gracie's strives to create a system that eliminates the excuses that the city has made for not giving all of its citizens access to fresh, local produce and creative food options. By actively serving as a three-tier distribution system, Gracie's focuses on connecting your average consumer with urban farmers, rural farmers, aspiring chefs in commercial kitchens/ghost kitchens, and local goods providers to create online services and delivery possibilities that specifically target food deserts but service everyone. Users will be able to log on to our digital platform, walk to farmers' markets in green spaces, or subscribe to recurring delivery services when they don't have access to the Internet or have limited mobility. Our goal is to serve everyone while also growing community visibility on both the consumer and producer side, while also eliminating chain grocer markups.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

I've always imagined Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech as a dining room table for some odd reason. Whether in a the neighborhood grandmother's house or a hip restaurant with industrial lighting and leather seating, people from different cultures being able to come together and share a meal while also learning more about the hands that prepared it. That's where we imagine Richmond and its citizens will change once Gracie's is implemented and gains traction. Shared meetings spaces and access for all through pop-up markets and digital platforms will, in our minds, do a wondrous job of recreating what the burgeoning food scene in our city looks like simply by eliminating barriers that have existed for far too long. Our technology will revolutionize how people buy groceries, feed their families and share smiles across tabletops.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our vision is at the corner of Things City Hall is Too Lazy to Address and What Residents Need. As we've addressed in earlier sections, we believe that distance and accessibility have limited the potential for food deserts to free themselves from the food apartheid system that has served as one of Richmond's longest mainstays. Our goal is to utilize our digital platform to give urban and rural farmers the opportunity to meet their customers by making suggestions about possible ways to prepare their food, speaking to where the food has come from, and why it's good for the users' body. More importantly, we believe that in connecting farmers, consumers, and aspiring entrepreneurs, we'll be able to change what it means to participate in the growing food and drink industry here by educating and making fresh food, produces and goods more accessible to the average citizen and even those who fall a little short of that profile.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email

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Photo of Alana Libow
Team

Hi Christian Dixon - As you hone your vision a few suggestions and reminders.

As you explore connecting and supporting diverse communities of your city, perhaps you may find it of interest to review and/or contact Dan Carmody with the Detroit Regional Food System/Eastern Market Vision. While they are not digital, you could view their system as an on-the-ground version of some of what you envision. Take a look! https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-system-vision-prize/open-submission/detroit-regional-food-system

Additional Resources:

1. Webinars:
This week/tomorrow there is a webinar on Future-Casting (tomorrow) and you there is a recorded webinar on Systems Thinking - both can be found here:
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-system-vision-prize/open-submission

2. Tools:
Reminder: We've built a comprehensive Food Vision Prize Toolkit with a lot of information, activities, and guidelines. The Toolkit will help you refine your Vision and make it systemic, human-centered and well informed for the future. Prize Toolkit: http://bit.ly/2X4ZxQk

We look forward to seeing your updates over the coming weeks.

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