For anyone in Gainesville looking for a community-based way to gather fresh groceries and combat food insecurity, the Gainesville Free Grocery Store (FGS) has plenty of events to go to. Recently, I attended the GNV Free Grocery Flea Market at the CMC Courtyard and interviewed the organizers to see what they've done to support food justice within this organization.

When I first walked into the CMC Courtyard, I could tell this was a lively, comfortable atmosphere. Artists stood behind their booths, displaying all their uniquely made creations, while a local DJ played some interesting beats. Everyone was immersed in getting to know one another, or talking about previous FGS events. Right next to the collaborative ‘What does Food Justice Mean to You?’ collage poster stood a potluck table, where people had brought all different kinds of food to share with the community.

Sarah Benchea

I first met with T Vargas, an organizer for FGS, who explained that events like the Flea Market were a great way to get the word out about FGS and the services they provided, along with supporting queer artists throughout the Gainesville area. They got involved with FGS around the beginning of 2022, and explained, “So many people are disconnected from their food systems, and we’re really trying to put the power back into the hands of the people by providing food”. Food justice is the belief that every human has the right to nutritious and affordable food, and FGS does all it can to support this.

Originally, FGS started as a delivery food service during the pandemic, when many other food pantries had been shut down. Now, FGS has a weekly walk-up food pantry on Tuesdays at the CMC Courtyard at 4 P.M. each Tuesday, along with supplying a food delivery service for those unable to make it to the markets. T also said the organization is trying to bring food into different neighborhoods throughout Gainesville, in order to “connect with the community and all the folks living in Gainesville impacted by this [food insecurity]”.

A large premise FGS is built on is called "mutual-aid," which means the multiple ways people from all communities come together to provide care for each other. Volunteering is always welcomed within FGS, and tons of opportunities and roles are open to come and help with, like organizing events and delivering food. They’re hoping to find more opportunities to help people outside of primarily college students, and expand their outreach all throughout Gainesville.

To obtain the food for their pantry, FGS has a garden right down the street from the CMC, along with partnering with local farms and businesses. “We have a variety of 6 plots that we use to grow food throughout the seasons. Right now, we’ve got collards, radishes, kale, and a little herb bed,” says Evie, another organizer for FGS. The main goal of the garden is to produce more food for those who rely on FGS and give them the opportunity to be more in touch with where their food comes from. Produce distributed from the garden comes with a notecard, including information about the food and an easy-to-use recipe. “For example, if someone is given radishes, I’ll provide a card showing how to saute the radishes and the greens, so you can use all of the produce you’re given, if you want to, in a low-cost, low-labor way,” Evie explained. FGS welcomes gardeners and volunteers of any skill level on Sunday mornings from 9-10:30 A.M., hoping to make knowledge accessible to everyone.

FGS can be found at the CMC Courtyard on Tuesdays for their food pantry, along with their website and Instagram