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Local Food for Wheeling: The Public Market
The Intermodal Center on Main Street has sat vacant for over seven years. The Public Market transforms it into a year-round, non-profit farmers market that brings local and natural food to downtown Wheeling. The objective is healthier consumers and prosperous local farmers.
We offer local produce, eggs, meat, dairy, and more from family farms in our region, directly benefiting local farmers. We also offer bulk and healthy grab & go selections. The Public Market offers many products that are not available at other food markets in Wheeling.
We invest in local farmers by selling local food on consignment, returning 70-80% of sales profit to farmers compared to 15% in traditional grocery. In just four years, The Wild Ramp in Huntington, West Virginia, returned $1.2 million to farmers using a consignment model and Local Roots, a consignment market in Wooster, Ohio returned over half a million dollars to farmers last year alone. Shifting just 10% of the Wheeling MSA’s annual food spending to local food would inject $35 million into the regional economy.
The Intermodal Center is located in the middle of two census tracts, encompassing the entire downtown area, that are designated by the USDA as food deserts (54069002600 and 54069002700). Food desert is an official USDA classification, in which a significant number of residents have no vehicle and live over half a mile from the nearest grocery store.
Grow Ohio Valley is committed to regional food security, and our mission is to build thriving community through local food. To make the Public Market’s food accessible to all, we will accept SNAP, WIC, and Senior Vouchers, and have secured “SNAP stretch” funding from the WV Food & Farm Coalition to increase the purchasing power of low-income shoppers.
An investment in local food is an investment in a thriving local economy. Huntington, Morgantown, and Charleston have all made significant investments in local food as a driver for economic development. Specialty grocery stores like ours benefit Wheeling by attracting young people and increasing property values by an average 17.5%, more than bookstores, bike shops, or gyms. A study by Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development concluded that spending at farmers' markets has over 3-times the local economic impact because funds stay in the region, whereas traditional grocery stores "leak outside the region."
Every dollar we make is re-invested in our non-profit mission to grow regional food security, benefit local farmers, and increase access to healthy food. The Public Market is about more than just groceries. It is about transforming a vacant downtown storefront into a space for community health. We will rebuild disappearing connections between farmers who grow nutritious food and the community they nourish. The Public Market is a means for channeling investment into a prosperous and secure regional food infrastructure. We believe that for Appalachia to truly thrive, we must recognize interconnections among the health of our population, support for regional farmers, and a flourishing local economy.
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