Soul Foods Grocery on 20th Street has a motto, “If it’s here, it’s good for you.”
In keeping with that, the self-billed ‘conscious grocery’ strives to educate the community about good food on a strict budget.
“For us, it’s about building relationships and as people come in and we talk to them and we hear what their needs are, then we’re able to build a relationship with them,” said Mallory Guenther, Soul Foods co-owner.
Further to those values, Guenther said she and her partner have developed a full-circle approach to food.
A community kitchen in their new location, in the old Riversdale liquor store, has allowed for the creation of meals from what otherwise might have been considered waste.
“When the food becomes at its prime and it’s perfectly ripe we put it in the kitchen and we make a grab and go salad out of it or we make a soup out of it and we make it available for purchase as nourishment that way, in a complete meal, and then that is available for a few days and then we freeze it and it goes onto our pay-what-you-can frozen shelf,” Guenther said.
While there are always concerns about being taken advantage of in a pay-what-you-can situation, Guenther introduced the shelf to generate more good than ill will.
In fact, in just a short time frame, the pay-what-you-can shelf had shown signs of morphing into a pay-it-forward model.
“There are so many people out there, and I mean I’ve been on that side of the coin too, of wanting to help but feeling helpless what could I do, what could I do to create a change?”
More than 18,000 people have seen the pay-what-you-can post, 90 have shared it, most ask how they can help.
Soul Foods first opened in May of 2017 in the Ideas Inc. building.
In a new location the initial vision isn’t lost but owners admit they have already and will continue to evolve as the community around them does.
“We’re not trying to work with any one person, we’re trying to work with everyone and create nourishment for people so that they can have a more healthy body and more awakened mind and a more meaningful life,” Guenther added.