MARION – The restoration of a downtown Marion landmark and creation of a healthy food market is the goal of Center Street Community Health Center (CSCHC) -and Marion Community Foundation is helping them get it done.
The Foundation awarded CSCHC a grant of $100,000, one-third of the overall project cost, as part of its 2018 Community Grants Program.
“We see our mission as one that extends beyond the walls of our clinic,” says Cliff Edwards, CEO of CSCHC. “Downtown Marion is deemed to be a ‘food desert,’ meaning an area without access to nutritious foods in an economically challenged neighborhood where residents also have transportation challenges.”
According to Edwards, downtown Marion meets the definition of an area of ‘food insecurity,’ in which residents have difficulty accessing affordable, nutritious food. This, he said, is linked to poor health outcomes.
The property CSCHC has purchased for their Healthy Food Market is the former cigar store in the heart of downtown Marion–at the intersection of Main and Center streets.
“The building is a long-neglected Marion landmark,” said Edwards. “The Center Street Market will be a big step towards our continued downtown revitalization.”
Edwards will direct the project. A manager with grocery experience will be hired to manage the day-to-day operations and a combination of paid staff and volunteers will allow the market to operate seven days a week.
The building was acquired in July and architectural plans are in progress. The physical restoration is expected to take several months, with an anticipated opening in Spring 2019.
“The grant from Marion Community Foundation will be used entirely toward the remodeling and physical restoration of the building,” said Dean Jacob, president and CEO of the Foundation. “We are grateful for our donors who make a substantial grant like this possible. This is the type of grant that our committee hopes will make a major impact on the community.”
Funding for this grant comes from Marion Community Foundation’s first endowment fund, the Health Care Fund.
“Marion Community Foundation, for the entire 20 years of its existence, has focused many grants on health care and wellness,” said Jacob. “The Foundation was created from the sale of the assets of the former MedCenter Hospital to OhioHealth. These assets became the Health Care Fund and, with a name change, the start of Marion Community Foundation in 1998.”
The Health Food Market, according to Edwards, is a continued effort by CSCHC to address community health issues.
“Acute problems like hunger, anemia, and poor school attendance are linked to food insecurity, as are chronic health problems like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and pediatric delays,” said Edwards. “For some of our patients, it comes down to a choice of either paying rent, having heat in their homes, or having food. As a result, they end up buying things that are cheap and ‘convenient,’ which are often fast, fried, or fatty foods that are detrimental to their health. The market will give them healthy, affordable, and accessible options.”
CSCHC is seeking additional collaborators to complete the project. Kroger has agreed to assist with equipping the Market. Those interested in supporting and becoming involved with the project may contact Edwards at (740) 751-6380.
The Health Food Market is one of 36 projects which received funding from Marion Community Foundation’s 2018 Community Grants Program. In total, the Foundation provided $548,200 in awards for community projects of Marion area nonprofit organizations.