JSPAN Board Meets with Jeffrey Brown and Atif Bostic
The JSPAN Board recently met at the Shop Rite on Fox Street to learn about the community-centric work of Jeff Brown, President and CEO of Brown's Super Stores, and Atif Bostic, Executive Director of UpLift Solutions, a nonprofit established by Brown to "support food businesses, government, and nonprofits to create sustainable environments for underserved communities." The store clearly caters to its neighborhood. It has an extensive Halal section, bakes in-house items of special interest to African Americans, and prepares take-out chickens that eliminate frying, using a healthy recipe whose popularity was evident. Produce, organic and regular, was of high quality and attractively displayed, encouraging better eating habits. Staff--all of it unionized--was friendly and helpful.
Mayor-Elect Jim Kenney and School District Superinitendent Dr. William Hite have called for the creation of Community Schools that provide wrap-around services. This and several other of Brown's stores already do that for their neighborhoods. A walk-in clinic provides direct nurse practitioner services and vetted, affordable referrals to more extensive care. Also available are mental health screenings, eye and dental services, nutritional advice, and help in navigating health and other benefits. Soon AARP will be joining in this effort, extending special services to seniors. The store's two community rooms are made available free of charge to community groups in need of space to hold meetings. It is amazing, Brown says, how simply providing a meeting space creates opportunities to solve neighborhood problems civilly and without resort to violence.
The store donates produce nearing the end of its shelf life to Philabundance and composts much of its waste.
Most of Brown's stores are in neighborhoods that were once food deserts. UpLift Solutions seeks to assist entrepreneurs elsewhere who are interested in replicating the model in cities and towns across the country.
Brown, a fourth-generation grocer, clearly considers good customer service and care for the community to be important parts of the bottom line. The JSPAN Board was unanimous in noting how transformational the attitudes and services we witnessed could be for the neighborhood. We hope to collaborate with UpLift Solutions as it offers concrete answers to the social justice issues on JSPAN's expansive agenda.
(In the photo: Brown's Super Stores President and CEO Jeffrey Brown, JSPAN President Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, and several JSPAN board members.)