General CBF / Healthcare Ministries

A Better Way to Wellness

Georgia mobile grocer delivers good food and nutrition education for a healthier community beyond the southwest corner of the state

By Jennifer Colosimo

A few years ago, Tiffany Terrell attended a conference in Atlanta on the senior hunger crisis. She listened to the ways various organizations were attempting to alleviate the problem around the country and watched as they used grocery delivery vans. It sparked her antennae and she began thinking about how ideas like these could work in her own community of Albany, Ga. But based on what she saw, she knew there had to be a better way.

Better Way Grocers first bus in Albany, Ga in 2017.

Terrell went home that day and put her family’s heads together. They all agreed, and pooled their resources to buy a bus. They removed the seats and built a one-aisle grocery store on wheels. It had a colorful produce stand in the front, shelves stocked with dry goods, a freezer and refrigerators—everything you’d see at a regular grocery store. The difference was that this one, appropriately named A Better Way Grocers, brought the grocery store to people in places that didn’t have access to one. And it doesn’t sell junk food.

The mission of A Better Way Grocers is to drive good food into low-access communities to inspire better health. Terrell offers healthy selections, encourages autonomous shopping and provides nutrition and wellness education, including recipe suggestions and cooking demonstrations.

“We wanted to bring healthy food options to people who weren’t used to grocery shopping for themselves,” said Terrell. “But what happened those first few months was a lot of waste. We realized a lot of these people had no idea what to do with a zucchini, or with broccoli or kale, and so they stuck to what they knew. But once we could educate them on how to use it, more importantly teach them about the health benefits associated with these types of foods, they were interested and wanted to try them.

“Ultimately, we want to empower people to make decisions about their health and wellness. I want to erase the misperception that low-income communities don’t care about healthy food,” she added. “Especially for African Americans who are at a higher risk for illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes, we want to give them a choice that makes them feel a sense of responsibility for their health.”

Today, nutritional education is a big part of A Better Way Grocers. They host monthly Zoom calls with a nutrition expert and a personal trainer who teach attendees about healthy foods, what foods can help lower blood pressure or are good for people with diabetes. The experts share ideas on how to introduce these foods into your diet and how to exercise to help boost the benefits of eating a balanced diet.

The second mobile grocery bus that begin rolling in January, 2022 in Sumter County.

 On site, the Terrells are food buyers, grocery shelf stockers, cashiers, shoppers and bus drivers. But they’re also what a lot of customers call friends.

“When we roll in, the bus is like a meeting spot,” said Terrell. “These people haven’t been outside all day, and now they can chat while they wait in line. There are conversations about everything from family history and upbringing to other things. Basically, we hang around and act like a family.”

While it is most often a husband-and-wife team, the Terrells are not alone. They weren’t rolling long before Rachel Shapard, the regional vice president of Together For Hope’s (TFH) Black Belt, reached out.

“As soon as we learned about the work of A Better Way Grocers, the Together for Hope staff knew their organization was a perfect fit for the TFH Rural Development Coalition,” Shapard said. “We were so impressed with their innovative method of putting the grocery store on wheels and taking it into food desert communities.

“The mobile grocery bus carries only those foods that are necessary for a healthy diet, so you won’t find candy bars and potato chips on their units,” she added. “We also love that they don’t stop at providing food access. They also provide educational opportunities such as recipes and cooking demonstrations for foods that their clients have never tried before, as well as alternative healthy recipes for food staples that are not always prepared in a healthy manner.”

Working with TFH was pivotal in helping A Better Way Grocers meet their goals of expanding into other areas of southwest Georgia. TFH had already created relationships in Sumter County through the assistance of Reverend Wendy Peacock and her church, Fellowship Baptist in Americus, Ga. They knew several organizations that had expressed the desire to bring better food access in their county.

Better Way Grocers host yoga and other exercise classes along with the fresh food and cooking tips.

 TFH and Fellowship Baptist helped Terrell through the process of presenting her business plan to those organizations, purchasing a bus and mapping out appropriate stops that the bus could make throughout the county. Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia was also able to provide the funds needed to provide expert advice and counsel to Terrell as she updated her business plan for the future of A Better Way Grocers.

“Tiffany is truly an innovator,” said Peacock, whose congregation raised funds to purchase the secondary bus. “So many people in southwest Georgia will benefit from her efforts. As residents of one of the poorest counties in Georgia, we were interested in learning more about how we can love our neighbors and help build up our community in positive ways. When Rachel told us about the mobile grocery bus, we knew this was something that could meet a real need in our community.”

It’s a unanimous hope that the work being done with the mobile grocery bus can inspire other communities to find ways to also facilitate local partnerships for the benefit of their areas.

“Some efforts are too great for a single congregation to take on by itself, but by working together with other churches, nonprofits and community leaders, we can make a real difference,” Peacock said.

“This small nonprofit began as a dream to meet the needs that the Terrell family saw in their own community, and it is now expanding to serve another one nearby,” Shapard said. “Who knows? Maybe A Better Way Grocers is the food desert solution for which a number of persistent poverty counties throughout the state of Georgia have been searching!”

Terrell’s hope is that this becomes something even bigger than that. “When this started, we thought we were just going to give people good food access; but the more we’ve learned, the more we know we need to do, and it starts with giving them that choice.”

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