Philly produce market fights to serve the community while facing hardship

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- West Phillie Produce has been a beacon of hope along 62nd Street near Market for 12 years. The community comes for fresh produce in an area that's a food desert.

This small business says it desperately needs more funding to keep its doors open.

"West Phillie produce does a lot for the community. They help a lot of children out, they keep us fed," Derrick Tate, a longtime customer said.

Even during the pandemic, West Phillie Produce remains open seven days a week.

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But the owner was forced to lay off employees at a time when the Black community needs fresh produce the most.

"Especially during these COVID-19 times, fruits and vegetables help boost the immune system. It's very important for your underserved communities to have it ready, available and affordable," owner Arnett Woodall said.

West Phillie Produce received a $5,000 Merchants Fund grant from the city, which helps businesses facing hardships. But they're still waiting for federal funds like PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program, to come through.

"Open 12 years now, seven days a week serving the community. We deserve more help than what we receive and we know that," Woodall said.

The owner is also a member of the African American Chamber of Commerce and he says too many Black-owned businesses like his are on the brink of shutting down.

"The trickle-down theory that we've operating on is not trickling down to our small businesses, to our underserved communities," Woodall said.

The African American Chamber of Commerce says 75% of Black-owned businesses were forced to shutdown for months, and many - like West Phillie Produce - are having difficulty with government assistance because of the application process or meeting qualifications.

West Phillie Produce, a lifeline, always willing to help those in need. Now, this business needs some help.
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