Liquor Store Becomes a Healthy Food Haven Thanks to Austin Teens

Youth today are speaking up about social injustice not only through the Black Lives Matter movement but also by addressing neighborhood concerns. In Austin, neighborhood teens are working to address the need for fresh food in their community by transforming a liquor store into a pop-up food market.

The idea of a food market in the food desert came from a listening circle facilitated by The Hand Club for Kids. This non-profit organization provides youth programming and resources in underserved communities. Youth expressed frustration with the lack of resources within their neighborhood, and the few grocery stores that once existed were forced to close due to looting.

When the executive director of the program, Donnita Travis heard of the youth’s desire to transform those strong emotions into something positive for the community, she and her team presented an opportunity to make that positive change by offering the opportunity to turn a liquor store, one of the locations previous looted, into a resource for the community. Travis stated that the youth “took the idea and ran with it.” Other supporters of this initiative include Sam Acho, NFL athlete, and other pro athletes such as White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito, Cubs Outfielder Jason Heyward, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, and Paul Goldschmidt from the St. Louis Cardinals. Together, these athletes raised $500,000 to tear down the liquor store and transform it into a food resource for the neighborhood.

Both the youth and By The Hand staff hope that this project will lead to further opportunities and resources for the community. In addition to the fresh fruits and vegetables, the pop-up market would provide, there is also a hope that this will be a safe space for the community to come together. Travis hopes that this space will offer nutrition classes and healthy demonstrations for the community. Further, they are also collaborating with The Hatchery Chicago to create a curriculum for the youth that will be working at the market to learn about entrepreneurship, licensing, customer service, and other aspects of the food industry that may someday become a career for them.

The pop-up market is set to open sometime in August at 423 N Laramie, and the youth will receive a paid opportunity to work at the market for a few days per week.

Chante’ Gamby is a writer and mental health therapist passionate about helping others live their best life. Follow her on Facebook@fringefam, Instagram@fringegram, and at





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