The Mount Airy couple that created a food distribution center offering pick up and delivery for people facing food insecurity
Mount Airy Groceries has grown into a storefront operation from a couple that used to provide groceries to just their neighbors and friends.
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Jessica Rights and Nicholas Freeman saw the COVID-19 pandemic leave many of their neighbors struggling.
“A lot of locals were ordering from traditional online services just to find out there were 3-4 week backups,” said Rights, founder of Mount Airy Groceries.
In response to the pandemic that hit in March 2020, many people panicked shop, which left others without food and supplies.
Others did not feel comfortable entering public spaces because masks were scarce which further contributed to the lack of fresh food.
It was at that moment when Rights and Freeman decided that they had to do something to help families dealing with such food insecurities.
“It started from our porch and we started handing out food almost every day,” said Rights.
Her and her husband, Nicholas Freeman, who are both caterers, knew how to buy in bulk and had access to restaurant warehouses, such as the Restaurant Depot.
“I asked my neighbors if they needed food,” she said. “I kept a little spreadsheet of neighbors and they would tell me what they wanted and I would fill out orders and bring boxes to their cars.”
Immediately, residents got word of the pair’s selfless cause and started receiving food donations from them. What started as a couple looking out for their community soon transformed into Mount Airy Groceries.
“We knew we had to do something,” she said.
Soon enough, nonprofit organizations like Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network collaborated with Mount Airy Groceries by helping others with food who have gone through the network.
“We started packing out free produce for Interfaith and bought more food from all of the tips that we received from delivering food from people,” said Rights.
Initially, she wanted to help neighbors and residents who were combating food insecurity as a result of the pandemic, but now she has manages to feed over 200 families per week in donations.
“We are now working out of a storefront on Germantown Ave, that was donated by the Mt. Airy CDC,” said Rights.
With the help of their families and volunteers, Mount Airy Groceries became something bigger than Rights ever thought possible.
“My family helps a lot, my father-in-law delivers when he can, my mother and sister also donates money to us, I am unbelievably grateful for their help,” she said.
Rights and Freeman have also built relationships with other small business owners and volunteers who have been reaching out to each other whenever they find a deal on fresh food that is easily accessible to residents.
“One of the distribution centers that I shop at called Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, try their best to eliminate food waste,” said Rights. “So, they do anything and everything to give us, free food or really affordable food to give out.”
Volunteers make the whole operation work.
“Sometimes Nick and I congratulate us for the work that we do, but we’re not the only ones who do this, without our volunteers it would be really difficult,” she said.
Rights believes that by helping each other our city can prosper and people can have more access to healthy food.
“If you have the resources, the money, shelter and food, then you have to do something to help your neighborhood please do, because not everyone is as lucky as you,” she said.
For more information on Mount Airy Groceries, check out their website.
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.