SÜPRMARKT: An Innovative Grocery Store Fighting to Eliminate Food Deserts in LA

rē•spin the way you shop for groceries.

By: rē•spin
SÜPRMARKT: An Innovative Grocery Store Fighting to Eliminate Food Deserts in LA

In 2016, Olympia Auset started SÜPRMARKT, a low-cost organic grocery service to eliminate food deserts. A vegan of 11 years, she grew tired of traveling hours by bus each time she needed fresh, healthy food. Since starting, SÜPRMARKT has served up 75,000+ pounds of affordable organics, making it easier and affordable for thousands of Angelenos to live healthier lives.

In May 2019, SÜPRSEED launched the Keep Slauson Fresh fundraising campaign to build South Central’s first full-service organic grocery. In October 2020, she completed the purchase of the historic Mr. Wisdom’s location on Slauson Ave.

Olympia serves on the board of the Co-Opportunity Market and is a Howard University Alum. Having grown up in neighborhoods across Los Angeles, Olympia has become very familiar with the differences in creativity, potential, and happiness that accompany differing food landscapes. She is steadfast in her commitment to creating an infrastructure for a better earth.

Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

I’m an LA native who grew up in neighborhoods across Los Angeles, from South Central to Inglewood, to West LA. I left LA to attend Howard University in DC, where I learned about food deserts, urban agriculture, the food system, and other international control systems. Equipped with a new understanding, I became steadfast in my commitment to creating an infrastructure for a better earth.

Going back to the beginning in 2016, when the pop-up launched, what inspired you to create this concept that addresses food insecurity head-on?

When SÜPRMARKT started, it was with the simple purpose of feeding myself, my friends, and my family affordably. I was tired of taking 2-hour bus trips to get fresh food. I was tired of going to the grocery store and agonizing over the prices of apples and avocados. I knew that if a few folks came together and pitched in, we could make organic produce affordable. I was determined to make fresh food available to the people I loved because I started to see people I cared about passing away from preventable diseases. Food deserts shouldn’t exist; everyone should have access to fresh, quality food in their neighborhood. Our mission is to end food apartheid in America by 2040 and serve the 24 million Americans living in food deserts.

It started as a pop-up but eventually expanded into a weekly event. How frequent would these pop-ups occur pre-pandemic?


What was the community’s initial reaction, and how has that evolved throughout the years?

We started with nothing in Leimert Park. We had $100, no table, chairs, tent, and the few boxes of produce we could afford. Yet, despite being bare-bones, we sold out our first day in the beginning. Since the start, the community has been so grateful to have us and so thankful that we are doing something about the abysmal access to quality food communities like ours experience.

Imagine living somewhere for 30 years, and despite having a decent income, having to travel outside your neighborhood EACH time you needed a health food store or a vegan meal. Imagine eating every day but never purchasing groceries from someone that looks like you. These are the bonds our presence is starting to break.

Since then, more and more people across the city and the country have reached out to express how proud, hopeful, and excited our work makes them feel. As a result, millions of people have heard our story, thousands have contributed financially to our cause, and hundreds of thousands will be served as we establish ourselves in the coming year.

In an article with Harper’s Bazaar, you described Los Angeles as food apartheid rather than a food desert. What is the significance of this shift of wording, and what does this mean?

For clarity, South Central is a food desert. Los Angeles is a vast place; some neighborhoods are food deserts, while others aren’t- hence, the disparity. The USDA defines a food desert as “a low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents.. [live] more than 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store” I prefer the term ‘food apartheid’ because the word “desert” refers to waterless places which naturally occur in the living world. ‘Food desert’ implies food injustice occurs naturally, and when people see it as “natural,” they don’t feel empowered or responsible for changing it. Food deserts are not natural; they are artificial and result from redlining, white flight, legal policy, and other forms of systemic injustice.

 ‘Food Apartheid’ lets us know that there is a clear line of discrimination being drawn, where some Americans have access to fresh food, and others don’t. People lose their love because of it. It is essential to be honest about the origin of problems if we are ever going to solve them.

How has the pandemic affected the way the community can access SÜPRMARKT LA?

SÜPRMARKT has been hard at work keeping others fed during the COVID Crisis. On 3.19.20, we sprang to action by procuring and providing 1,400 pounds of grains and seeds to needy people with our “Feed the Hood” giveaway. We then began partnering with healthy food providers in South Central to provide free + discounted vegan meals weekly. While we no longer have weekly in-person pop-ups, the community can still order online, pick up, and deliver pro-owned. We have also hosted community giveaways since the pandemics started supplementing access at challenging times. So when our store opens, our community will have regular, affordable access to healthy food for the first time.

How do you feel SÜPRMARKT LA has rē•spun the shopping experience and accessibility?

We are innovating to create lasting solutions to long-standing problems with style. There has never been a Black-owned organic grocery chain/ delivery service. There has never been somewhere you can shop where every dollar you spend helps to end food apartheid. There has never been a successful national effort to subsidize healthy food instead of fast food. We are changing the face of health in America to include all of us. We are re-spinning what eating is like in America, and we hope you will join us for the ride.

suprmarkt grocery service

One of rē•spin’s core pillars is GIVE. You’re currently raising funds for the Keep Slauson Fresh Campaign. Could you detail what this campaign will provide to South Central’s community?

Our mission is to end food apartheid in America by 2040 and serve the 24 million Americans living in food deserts. Living in South Central makes you three times as likely to die from a preventable disease due to the limited access, and more grocery stores are being closed. So everyone that GIVES to us is giving the gift of life and a fair chance at excellent health.

Last October, we purchased the historic Slauson space that once housed Mr. Wisdom’s. Now our Keep Slauson Fresh is raising funds to finish improvements and open South Central’s first full-service organic grocery store this summer.

We need everyone’s support with our next big step. Opening this space will be our first step towards our larger mission of ending food apartheid. It will allow us to start serving 1,000 Angelenos per week by 2022. Funds raised will help us subsidize the cost of everything we carry, from smoothies to natural deodorants. Funds will also power free cooking classes, wellness experiences, cleanses, and events for Angelenos and free educational content for the nation. We will pioneer a formula for health equity that can be applied nationwide and beyond by innovating a new model of making healthy food affordable.


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