University of Pittsburgh-owned grocer opens, fills healthy food void
University of Pittsburgh junior Jason Earle has always traveled off campus by public transportation to buy groceries, taking hours out of his day.
Now, he can simply walk out of class and down Forbes Avenue in Oakland and have his choice of fruits, vegetables, fresh meats and other healthy food options at the newly-opened Forbes Street Market. The market opened in November and held a grand opening celebration Thursday.
“I think that really ever since I came to Pitt this is something students have been looking for,” Earle said. “There’s so many options.”
The market, owned by the university and operated by its food servicer Sodexo, fills what many believe to be a “food desert” created when the only other neighborhood grocery store, a nearby IGA, closed about a year ago. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as an area lacking in options for fresh fruit, vegetables and other whole foods.
“Students were really struggling,” said Gloria Chabot, director of operational excellence for Pitt. “Fresh produce was the biggest piece that they were talking about that they struggled with.”
The market is open to not only Pitt students and faculty, but to the public. Shoppers can find local brands including Delallo pasta, Wholey’s meats and Schneider’s dairy products. Fresh fruits and vegetables are shipped in daily. A deli counter offers fresh cut meats and cheeses along with made-to-order sandwiches.
“We’ve got a lot of different options that the students, faculty, staff and general community are really enjoying,” said Joe Beaman, director of dining services for Pitt. “We wanted to make sure that the community in general had access to (fresh products).”
Students have a heavy hand in what goes on the shelves by utilizing a suggestion board. Many of the items on the shelves today are there because students identified a need from things like Greek yogurt to bottles of kombucha, a popular health drink made from fermented tea.
Sophomore Molly Chambers comes to the market every day to either grab lunch or a healthy snack between classes. She plays lacrosse and likes to keep her diet healthy.
“Before we didn’t have many healthy options,” she said.
Sharlyn Izurieta found herself in the market Thursday after arriving in Pittsburgh from Montana to visit her husband. He works at Carnegie Mellon University.
“It’s nice to have some options that are organic,” she said. “I know he won’t eat fruits and vegetables, but I do.”
Greg Scott, senior vice chancellor for business and operations for Pitt, said about 30 percent of the market’s sales are cash, which is an indicator it’s not only serving the needs of students, but also regular shoppers off the street. Students can pay at the market using their campus meal plan, so he said it’s likely they are not paying with cash or cards.
“This place has gone gangbusters,” he said. “Things are basically empty by the end of the day.”
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @emilybalser.
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 412-871-2369, email@example.com or via Twitter .