Increasing Food Access with Beverly Grant

R & B’s Mo’ Betta Green Marketplace is not your typical farmers market – it is an experience that caters to the five senses to bring health, eating, and active living to all.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Boyum, 5280 Magazine

Beverly Grant

is a community weaver and positive change maker in the Denver food scene. She was born into having passion for food and mentored by her maternal grandmother, Maude Wilburn “Mama”, who transformed her Denver backyard into an urban farm in the 1950’s. When Beverly realized that people in her community of Five Points, one of Denver’s oldest and most culturally diverse neighborhoods, were experiencing food insecurity, she began asking why.

“Why does this problem [food insecurity] exist in every state across the United States?”

To be food insecure is to be without reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. People who are afflicted by food insecurity often live in what are called “food deserts” which are areas that have limited access to affordable and nutritious food; “food swamps” are also prevalent, these neighborhoods have an abundance of fast food, convenience stores, and liquor stores instead of grocery stores (Grant, 2020). The term “food apartheid” is used to address the intentionality of food access inequality based on income, race, and geography (Hanna, 2019). Equal food access, or lack thereof, is intentional and built on colonial systems of oppression that perpetuate social and racial inequality.

While living in afflicted communities and doing thorough research, Beverly saw that the same neighborhoods that were food insecure were the same ones lacking in so many other resources including quality education, health care, proximity to pollution, etc.

Drawing from her grandmother’s ancestral teachings and knowledge of permaculture, Beverly embraced the permaculture principle “the problem is the solution”. This inspired her to transform challenges into opportunities for growth.

In 2010, R & B’s Mo’ Betta Green Marketplace was created to bring healthy food to Beverly’s community built on the steadfast values of food literacy, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility.

These values have guided Beverly and her partners in formatting the marketplace and how the community accesses and experiences it. With Mo’ Betta Green being a pop-up marketplace, she and her partners are intentional and flexible with the communities they serve.

Beverly passionately states, “When you provide for those who have the least, you provide for everyone”. Knowing this, she pushes to break barriers to food access, active living, and food literacy in a multitude of ways, in conjunction with bringing the marketplace to those in her community who need it most.

Denver youth serve samples of fresh pressed juice to marketgoers

First and foremost, a marketplace must be centered around food, folks, and fun. A market must be exciting!

Pre-COVID, if you had the opportunity to visit R & B’s Mo’ Betta Green Marketplace, you would hear music from live DJs, be enticed to draw nearer by the aroma drifting from live cooking and juicing demos, inspired by artists of all mediums, cared for by no-cost health practitioners, and welcomed into dynamic activities like line- dance, tai chi, and yoga. This concept was born from an acronym Beverly uses to guide her business, HEAL, which stands for health, eating and active living.

In addition to engaging with her community through the five senses, Beverly ensures that her marketplace is welcoming to all by hiring, working, and partnering with people who look like those she serves. Beverly works with talented community members of all ages, races, gender identifications, and abilities. Furthermore, Beverly teaches her employees how to operate a floating price structure aka “pay what you can”. There are many ways to “purchase” fresh food at Mo’ Betta Green. Guests may pay what they can with cash, card, or contactless payment, use SNAP benefits and Double-Up Bucks, and they may take part in an activity held at the marketplace.

Building community through R & B’s Mo’ Betta Green Marketplace by thoughtfully working to eliminate barriers and engaging with people brings about positive change. Beverly has seen this firsthand. Food has the power to positively change a person’s mindset.  One bite or sip of any of the items available for sampling becomes the leverage point to begin engagement. What Beverly calls their “miracle ears” is a phrase she uses to describe the interest shown by a market visitor that has become interested in learning more about what was just sampled. By captivating ones “miracle ears”, people become more open to new experiences and are excited to learn.

Beverly says, “Your mouth is the gateway to your being, and you are the gate keeper”. Therefore, increasing access to nutritious, local, and delicious food leads to educating people on the importance of knowing the origin of their food. Which then encourages people to be better “gate keepers”.

This knowledge motivates people to be a part of the solution by feeling healthier, thinking more critically, and expecting and demanding better for themselves and their community.

Farm stand youth wave to a community member picking up their organic, local produce

Beverly’s strength, love, and passion pours into R & B’s Mo’ Betta Green Marketplace which has helped her adapt to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, she has made sure that fresh, local, nutrient dense food is still available to her community by becoming one of Denver’s largest youth employers. This season, local youth managed farm stands at the Dahlia Center for Health and Well-Being in Parkhill, her urban farm “Seeds of Power Unity Farm”in the Cole Neighborhood, small business partner “Alchemy Ritual Goods” in the Curtis Park Neighborhood, and the Blair Caldwell Research Library in the Five Points neighborhood. These farm stands allowed community members to walk or drive up to receive produce and offered contactless payment.

Even though the farm stands are much different than the markets of yesteryear, Beverly still activates miracle ears by mentoring her youth employees and sending them with “homework”. This homework is taking fresh produce home to share with their families. Beverly ensures that each Youth has the opportunity to eat the local, organic, produce they sell.

If you are inspired by the work of Beverly Grant you may:

Donate on Venmo – @mobettagreen

or

Follow R & B’s Mo’ Betta Green Marketplace on Facebook and @mobettagreen on Instagram to stay updated.

 

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