Community grocery store gives food to Philadelphia neighborhood hard-hit by pandemic, looting

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Philadelphia man has dedicated his life to uplifting his community through fresh food.

His unique grocery store has become a beacon of hope in a neighborhood hard hit by the pandemic and this month's civil unrest. Now, others are looking to replicate his unique model.

"In the community they don't have options the corner store option is not a good option for them," said Arnett Woodall.

More than a decade ago, Woodall noticed that fresh and affordable food was hard to come by in parts of West Philadelphia. It was then that West Phillie Produce was born.

"When you need something and you can't get to the supermarket, you do not have a car you can come here and you can get a lot of little items that you might need," said frequent customer, Julie Campbell.

On the corner of 62nd and Ludlow, the store offers healthy food options at affordable prices and also serves as a community hub that's now home to a book club and chess club and offers gardening classes.

"They're making juices, they're making fruit salads. We are teaching and growing entrepreneurs we are teaching them what a GMO is versus what a GMO is not," said Woodall.

Over the course of 11 years, Woodall has given away over 97,000 tons of food and has employed hundreds of teens and young adults.

Through the years, he's formed relationships with Whole Foods and farmers as far as Vermont who donate their excess produce. It is those partnerships that helped make it possible for him to help his community when the need for food spiked as a result of the pandemic.

The looting from the recent civil unrest also limited the options for families and senior citizens. Three times a week he gives away food until he runs out, which tends to happen a lot faster these days.

"People were only coming out for the free food that we were giving them," he said. "So they would pull up in their car and we would load it right into their car right."

A father of three sons, and a father-figure to countless others, Woodall says he's on a mission to transform the neighborhood. His model which is, at its core, focused on grassroots community development, is one that he says others are already trying to replicate.

"People are asking for us to put these things all over the united states of America. We are actually globally recognized sitting right here in west Philadelphia as the model for all under served communities across this country.

For more information on West Phillie Produce or to donate your time or money, click here.
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