By Megan Sayles
Growing up in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, the only food that Mario Minor had access to was from corner stores and fast food restaurants. His options comprised frozen and fried meals with high sodium, fat and sugar.
While working out kept Minor looking healthy on the outside, he experienced two heart attacks and was diagnosed with Leukemia later in his life .
During his recovery, Minor discerned that he needed to address the food deserts that were plaguing local communities across the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area.
In 2016, Minor and his colleague Lenny Knight developed the concept for Market Fresh Gourmet, a full-service grocery store that would provide healthy food options to residents facing food insecurity.
Now, Market Fresh Gourmet in 2022 is set to open its flagship location right where Minor grew up in Prince George’s County, as well as another location in Baltimore’s Poppleton neighborhood.
“We just understood that there was an issue going on in communities, more so underserved communities, with food disparities and health issues,” said Minor, CEO of Market Fresh Gourmet.
Food deserts, or an area where residents have minimal or no access to affordable, healthy food options, lead to diet-related diseases that include heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to the Food Revolution Network.
Minor and Knight, who serves as COO of Market Fresh Gourmet, have extensive experience in the food retail space. The pair leveraged their professional relationships to partner with local farmers and producers so they could provide affordable options to residents.
Aside from healthy food options, Market Fresh Gourmet will offer education and employment to community members.
“One of the ways that we really want to get involved with the communities is the way of offering opportunities of employment,” said Knight. “We really are focused on helping constituents that live near and by our locations to have opportunities to come work with us.”
Minor and Knight intend for Market Fresh Gourmet to organize health screenings and cooking demonstrations for customers so they can become better educated about nutrition. They also want to create a pipeline for young people to work their way up to management positions at the business.
With Market Fresh Gourmet, Minor and Knight seek to change the mindset of underserved communities that have experienced hopelessness when it comes to fresh food access.
“When they see what we are doing, they see a name called ‘Market Fresh Gourmet.’ A lot of times when they see something like that they think that it’s not for them [because] communities are so used to not having anything at all,” said Minor. “When we show up, we want to make sure that people understand that this is for the community and just really be a change agent with respect to the overall business that we’re doing.”
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