Back in 2015, College of Charleston alumni Lindsey Barrow ’10 and Kate DeWitt ’11 were inspired to create Lowcountry Street Grocery (LSG), described as “Charleston’s first mission-driven, mobile farmers market. The mission revolves around sustainable food equity through business rather than charity.
They converted a 1988 B700 Ford School Bus into a rolling grocery store. With financial support from a Kickstarter campaign, they set out to serve the area’s so-called food deserts by providing low-income communities with access to fresh, local produce and products. The idea proved to be a success.
Three years later, the LSG bus now travels throughout the Charleston area regularly. Though Dewitt has since moved on to other endeavors, Barrow has forged ahead. And he’s keeping the operation connected to the CofC community, having recently brought on a few members of the CofC family: Miranda Saunders ’17 joined as market manager and company sous chef; Briana Bethea ’11 runs community development; and current CofC student Carolyn Edwards is the Growing New Farmers’ intern.
The mobile grocery is currently visiting North Charleston, Downtown, West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island, and James Island — but the schedule is adjusted regularly.
“One of the pillars of what we do is the empowerment of the communities,” says Barrow. “Ever since day one, we wanted to prove that you can provide value to your neighbors through traditional business tools, not just through non-profit work. Thats where the empowerment comes in. Our ‘pillars’ as we call them are community, access, empowerment and education. The whole ‘Robin Hood’ economy is how we do what we do, essentially making our community look out for itself where sales in mixed income neighborhoods can allow us to leverage pricing for low income neighbors.“
The Electronic benefit transfer (EBT) program, Healthy Bucks, allows LSG to provide $10 of produce with any $5 EBT purchase. They worked with the state of South Carolina to set this up, and it has been one of the most successful uses of the program to date. Many local farmers aren’t able to offer this incentive to customers due to the administrative work required to qualify for the program, says Barrow.
Looking ahead, Barrow says that he would love to find a way to make stops on the College of Charleston campus. He also has plans to build a storefront with a kitchen that would be available for anyone in the community to use.
“We’re really trying to bring people back to farmers and their food,” he says. “We want people to have a closer relationship to what they’re eating.”
Feature photo by Reese Moore