Jubilee Market struggles to bring in business

Claudell Copeland, Jubilee Market cashier, helps customers Maria Perez and her daughter Esmeralda Garcia with their groceries. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

Brennen DiMarzo | Contributor

The Jubilee Food Market, which opened on Dec. 1, 2016, hasn’t had the influx of people originally expected.

“Problems with getting a food stamp license were one of the causes,” Keith McGee, assistant manager, said.

The market was built by Mission Waco with the objective of bringing food to the food desert in the surrounding area. The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as an area that is often short on whole food providers, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.

Mission Waco was able to fund the market through the multiple donations made by companies such as H-E-B and Magnolia Market.

Volunteers from around Waco came together to construct the market. The original building was torn down, and the Jubilee Food Market took its place.

“The shelves of the Jubilee market are stocked by contributions by Brenham wholesale and food donations” Talgat Pate, a market staff member, said.

The market has experienced problems over the last month, primarily a lack of shoppers, McGee said.

“We are open for 12 hours a day, and we probably only get around 100 customers a day,” said McGee. “Whether you are on government assistance or have a million dollars, you should shop here.”

McGee said he believes the cause of the low traffic is that Mission Waco doesn’t have the licenses to accept food stamps.

“The problem with the license is the state of Texas had this address flagged, and that makes it hard for us to get the license,” McGee said.

Mission Waco leaders are looking to hopefully receive the market’s license by next week, the paperwork to prove eligibility is being reviewed.

“The market hasn’t been here long enough to have an impact,” said David Daniels, a Jubilee Market employee, shopper and Mission Waco Volunteer.

Despite the complications the market has faced so far, Jubilee Market employees still hope to serve the surrounding community.

“A person comes in needing food, they go through the front office to explain their story, they will give food to those who need. But since this is part of Mission Waco, they will also teach them how to better themselves,” Pate said.

Within the next month, Mission Waco leaders plan to start their URBAN R.E.A.P (Renewable Energy and Agriculture Project.) The plan is to construct an aquaponics greenhouse adjacent to the market, complete with solar panels to keep it completely off the grid. This will allow the market to sell fresh vegetables and fish to their customers.