All People’s Fresh Market Staff greets customers with friendly smiles as they walk in. Credit: Shanti Lerner | Lantern Reporter

The store at 945 Parsons Ave. was formerly known as a liquor store. But now, the shelves of the old establishment offer products from the other side of the health spectrum: fresh produce for free.

All People’s Fresh Market — a church-based, nonprofit program that has been giving away 15,000 pounds of free, fresh produce each week in the South Side of Columbus for more than five years — has transformed an old liquor store into a produce market across the street from its former location with the help of Ohio State students.

Most of the marketing for the new location and promotion for its grand opening on Thursday was done by an Ohio State health sciences class, Teamwork Leadership. Through this program, students are assigned to help the Columbus community in various health-related settings outside the classroom. Aside from promoting the cause, student tasks also include gathering healthy videos and recipes that visitors of Fresh Market can access.

“It is great for this kind of community to see that what was originally a liquor store, which is kind of a bad culture, and transitioning that into a produce market, which I think is very positive, because a lot of people in this community are pretty vulnerable,” said David Aslaner, a third-year in health sciences. “They grow up in families and communities where they don’t have much opportunity to purchase produce.”

Fresh Market’s new home is a little bigger than a regular-sized classroom at Ohio State. Its previous location did not have refrigeration or doors big enough for produce delivery. The new Fresh Market, however, has refrigerators left by the old liquor store that now hold various fruits and vegetables, and garage doors big enough for forklifts to make produce deliveries possible.

Most of the food found at Fresh Market is donated by the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. It initially acquires the food from the federal government. The produce is available to people who are at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. However, food that is donated from stores like Kroger and Walmart, as well as donations from local growers and community gardens, is eligible for anyone of any financial background.  

The Fresh Market program is overseen by Community Development for All People, a nonprofit that offers programs for affordable housing, youth development and healthy living. The organization also works to encourages exercising to complement a healthy lifestyle.

“The challenge for us will be, ‘How do we mark things so that people know what they can take and what they can’t?” said Erin West, healthy eating and living director for Community Development for All People and manager of Fresh Market.  “It’s our intention that we really want to infuse their diets with fresh fruit and vegetables, because fresh food leads to healthy living.”

All People’s Fresh Market will open its doors at 10:30 a.m. Thursday on March 8. The new store is located at 945 Parsons Ave.