Stories about grocery supply chain problems — and photos or videos of empty store shelves — have been a mainstay of the news since the start of the pandemic. But not having access to fresh, healthy groceries? That’s nothing new for far too many Black folks.
Fortunately, Black entrepreneurs aren’t waiting for chains to decide that Black folks living in food deserts deserve to have fresh fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and other groceries in their neighborhoods. A new market in Georgia is even going high-tech to bring nutritious offerings to its local community.
Nourish + Bloom Market in Fayetteville, Georgia, just south of Atlanta, is the first autonomous grocery store with robotic delivery in the United States. Founded by husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Jamie and Jilea Hemmings, the market’s also the very first Black-owned autonomous grocery store in the world.
You can see in the video above from NBC Nightly News how technologically advanced the market is. Even Bree Newsome Bass — the same Bree who climbed up a pole in 2015 and snatched down the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds — called the market “Afrofuturism.”
That’s because, along with the completely contactless technological innovations it uses, the market represents “a forward-thinking, Black politic that seeks to improve quality of life.”
Indeed, Jamie Hemmings told NBC Nightly News that Nourish + Bloom Market, which opened in January, is more than a business.
“When you look at these neighborhoods, they’re getting access to just junk because it’s cheap for the retailer,” he said. “So for us, we want to be able to change the scope of these neighborhoods so they can start eating healthier. When you look at childhood obesity, when you look at diabetes, it really runs in the Black community. And we want to be able to change that.”
Living in a “food desert” — a neighborhood without easy access to grocery stores — is a reality for one in five Black households, according to a 2021 McKinsey report. Some refer to this as “food apartheid” since the lack of supermarkets in Black neighborhoods is an unspoken, yet deliberate policy — “supermarket redlining,” as experts call it.
Big grocery chains “have a demographic location profile that prioritizes communities that are not low-income and not African American,” Stacy Mitchell, the co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, told CNN last year. “The outcome has a racial bias.”
Meanwhile, Nourish + Bloom Market has plans to expand across Georgia and into Florida. “Our whole mission is that everyone deserves access to healthy food in a convenient way, and an affordable way,” Jilea Hemmings said.