How Grocery Run Club Serves Underserved Communities by Bringing Food and Miles

Ironically, Grocery Run Club wasn’t actually founded as a jogging group. Adopting that concentration actually took more than a year. In reality, best friends Lucy Angel Camarena and Jorge Saldarriaga formed the Chicago-based nonprofit organization in order to solve food insecurity in the neglected areas of the city.

Customers worried about food shortages and supply-chain disruptions that resulted in bare shelves and few options at grocery stores in the early months of the coronavirus epidemic. In reality, from February 2020 to May 2020, overall food insecurity—defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a lack of regular access to enough food for an active, healthy life—doubled, and among households with children, according to a study from Northwestern University. it tripled.

Camarena and Saldarriaga started working as volunteers at a community garden to build produce distribution boxes in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago because they felt helpless about the scarcity of readily available fresh produce and basic necessities. Access to food, particularly in communities of color, was a major need, according to Camarena. Also according to research: Black and Latino or Hispanic homes in the U.S. had food insecurity rates rates of 15.8 percent and 19.3 percent, respectively, disproportionately higher than the rate of 8.1 percent among white households, even before the pandemic. According to Camarena, the closest grocery store in North Lawndale is actually outside the community.

Sweat Equity: Grocery Run Club

The typical source of non-produce food and supplies for the communal garden fell through one weekend. Unfazed, Camarena and Saldarriaga requested five dollars apiece via Venmo from friends so they could go shopping and gather items for a communal handout. The moment the lightbulb turned on was then.

We felt it was unjust that we had to depend on a bigger organization to deliver food and supplies, Camarena explains. “How can we help? How were we able to act as a go-between for groups fighting food hunger on the ground and friends looking to lend a hand?”

Grocery Run Club was founded on that foundation and formally launched in July 2020 with the intention, according to Saldarriaga, “to provide a continual supply of funds so we could always help other nonprofits and community organizations.” The biggest problems that nonprofit organizations encounter are related to funding. The Grocery Run Club raises money, enlists volunteers, and goes grocery shopping in order to mobilize people and organizations that can offer their time, money, and expertise to enhance food access. The larger groups that Grocery Run Club collaborates with can then concentrate on daily operations and on-the-ground initiatives.

Although the two were aware that Grocery Run Club had the potential to have an influence on hundreds of Chicagoans, Saldarriaga says, “we didn’t realize we were forming a nonprofit when we started it.” “We’ve just gotten an incredible amount of support,” Including a partnership proposal from Lululemon in June 2021.

GROCERY RUN CLUB: Putting the ‘Run’ in Run Eventually, Grocery Run Club was prepared to advance and better live up to its moniker. Around Global Running Day the following year, Lululemon contacted Saldarriaga and inquired about starting a run group. Because of our name, “We had.”

He claims it was a no-brainer to accept the offer from the athletic company. He notes that there is frequently a complex network connecting food access, daily needs, and health and wellness. According to Saldarriaga, “if you see a lack of investment in food access, you’ll likely find a lack of good habits” (like frequently exercising) in the same populations and communities. “When Lululemon contacted us, it seemed obvious that working with a run club made sense.” GRC Run Club , a Grocery Run Club branch that focuses on running, was created as a result.

Friends Crystal Rosales and Marina Holter were chosen by the GRC Run Club founders to serve as run leaders, with the tagline “all faces, all paces.” The GRC Run Club meets twice a month in a small BIPOC or female-owned establishment, such a Brazilian coffee shop or artisanal soft-serve restaurant run by Latinx people. The group gives everyone hugs and high-fives before setting off to jog three to five miles together, making sure no one is left behind or running alone. Saldarriaga said, “After that, we have a community kickback.” We enjoy refreshments from the neighborhood business, compliments of Lululemon, as we “wait for everyone to complete, applaud everyone in, and kick it with one another.” (It should be noted that the GRC Run Club is the first Lululemon-sponsored run crew in Illinois managed by a Latinx person.)

Saldarriaga and Camarena regard the run crew as a complement to Grocery Run Club’s existing work on food access, despite the fact that it may appear that they are independent initiatives.

“The run club” was another venue for us to raise awareness of the nonprofit organization, another way for us to do that while logging kilometers with our friends and neighbors, according to Saldarriaga. “Post-run is when we’re able to respond to inquiries and discuss what’s next for the nonprofit,” The co-founders can more effectively amplify the efforts of each by utilizing both the run club and the nonprofit. For instance, the team recently organized a run and neighborhood clean-up at their original North Lawndale garden, where they had just sown the first seasonal fruits and vegetables. He remembers, “We jogged, we cleaned up, we gardened, and that was really fantastic. “We’re working to gradually combine those two entities,” the speaker said.

The pair also emphasizes how having a Latinx-led run crew in the first place contributes to greater wellness accessible, particularly in communities of color. We hold our runs in underserved and disadvantaged neighborhoods, and whenever we are seen, people cheer us on, adds Saldarriaga. “On the North Side of Chicago, there are a ton of running clubs. On the South Side, however, the sight of an entire operating club with a broad, eclectic crowd that is primarily Latino and Black attracts attention in and of itself. It’s that chance to see individuals who resemble you but whom you might not typically see “running.””

CO-FOUNDER OF GROCERY RUN CLUB AND GRC RUN CLUB, JORGE SALDRIAGGA When you walk into a run club and notice that the majority of the members are Latino and Black, it draws attention.

Co-founder of the Grocery Run Club and the GRC Jorge Saldriagga An approachable neighborhood running group is frequently the beginning of a person’s path toward health and wellness. Rosales explains that the GRC Run Club frequently explores new Chicago neighborhoods. “Some of those neighborhoods might not see much activity or health. This is why we constantly want to support those who reside in these places and help those who migrate there, as well as bring wellness to anyone who might be interested but is unsure of where to begin.”

Running is one of the most accessible physical activities, thus it fits Grocery Run Club’s aim particularly well. Everyone should run, says Camarena. “It’s one of the things we can all do to improve our health. Yes, “Grocery Run Club” offers food and other basics, but our goal is to alter people’s lives by educating them about leading better lifestyles, and a lot of that depends on availability.”

SETTING UP BIPOC COMMUNITIES TO CREATE HEALTHY HABIT Grocery Run Club has been around for two years, and during that time they’ve evolved from two “rogue patches of land,” in Camarena’s words, to a fully developed garden that was constructed by a design team, an urban farmer, and a professional crop plan. Some people had never before witnessed “food truly growing,” according to Camarena. “North Lawndale neighborhood kids can come and watch things grow. I saw a 10-year-old taste a tomato for the first time.” With access to the tools needed to better prioritize their health and wellness, individuals of that community can alter the way they eat as a result of the neighborhood garden.

GRC Run Club also frequently organizes charitable runs. The Dia De Los Muertos run from the previous year was “an a-ha” moment for Rosales. “GRC promised to sponsor a family in Pilsen, an underprivileged area on the South Side of Chicago, with a week’s worth of groceries for every four runners who joined us on the course. I was astounded when about 100 runners showed up to join us as we ran through the Pilsen streets to support these families. It strongly made me realize that this was about more than just running “Adds she.

Additionally, Camarena and Saldarriaga are dedicated to long-term grassroots organization as passionate Chicagoans. According to Saldarriaga, “Lucy and I were dedicated to making sure that this wasn’t a Covid-only project when we began ‘Grocery Run Club.'” Beyond the pandemic, “We’re born and raised Chicagoans, and we’re devoted to making Chicago better.”

The goal of the GRC Run Club is also represented in this long-term strategy for bringing about community change. He emphasizes that “change doesn’t occur overnight; it comes with commitment and longevity.” “That also has to do with running, right? There is a lot more to do, a lot more people to affect, and a lot more projects we were to spread out. Make a commitment to mileage, make a commitment to training. People will know that we are dedicated to growing and supporting one another by how consistently we are present in our communities.”

They also hope that GRC Run Club will pave the way for additional headed crews and charity organizations focused on health that are run by people of color. Camarena declares, “We don’t want to be the only sponsored, Latino-led run club in the United States. “How does our work with GRC Run Club encourage people to take risks? Let’s make some progress toward creating a better city by laying the groundwork for everyone to follow.”

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