Filling the need for low-cost food
The Bargain Grocery opened in 2020 when increasing demand for food left the pantry at the Redeemer Church in Utica out of supplies. After a local business owner donated a 30,000-square-foot warehouse, the church began storing reclaimed food there and opened the discount grocery to sell it to residents.
In 2018, the store expanded from a 1,500-square-foot space in the church to a 14,000-square-foot building on Utica’s West Side, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The project was funded by a $600,000 grant from New York’s Empire State Development (ESD), which also finances NYSP2I’s food waste reimbursement program.
At the Bargain Grocery, food is sold at 30 percent of the wholesale cost at retailers such as Walmart. Shoppers can also receive free gift cards if they are strapped for cash to purchase food and other household items. Nearly 350,000 residents are served by the nonprofit each year.
“We’re rescuing food and we’re reusing these products,” said the Rev. Charles Sweet, the vice president of business development at the Compassion Coalition. “We’re selling it in the middle of a food desert so people can put healthy, wholesome food on their table.”