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Carrotmob to storm West Phillie Produce and show importance of a neighborhood produce store

If you’re going to be around the 63rd St. El stop this-coming Friday evening, you might witness a Carrotmob. However, you have nothing to worry about, even if you don’t like carrots.

This Carrotmob will be drawing attention to a struggling independent produce store by raising money through a mass purchase of its items. West Phillie Produce, which has struggled to find business since its opening in mid-2009 despite being located in a food desert at 62nd and Ludlow Sts., will be the beneficiary of the Carrotmob.

Former City Council candidate Andy Toy, who is now the director of the Retail Resource Network at West Philadelphia’s Enterprise Center, is one of the biggest promoters of West Phillie Produce. Toy heaps praise on the owner of West Phillie Produce, Arnett Woodall, who is really trying to make a difference in the neighborhood’s diet. Regrettably, Woodall has only had varying success in doing this. "Arnett continues to encourage neighbors to improve their nutrition habits, but old habits die hard," says Toy. "Some neighbors have still not visited (in) over 2 years."

To address West Phillie’s lack of business, various groups, led by the Enterprise Center, decided to team up and unleash a Carrotmob in the store. According to Toy, a Carrotmob is a "buycott" where a bunch of people shop at a given time from a particular business that has a sustainable, local, or socially conscious mission. The proceeds from a Carrotmob go toward the business, or toward some project that the business is embarking on.

In the case of West Phillie Produce, Toy says money raised from the Carrotmob will help finance new equipment and allow the store to continue giving away fresh fruit salads to local almsgivers. In addition, the Carrotmob will enable like-minded people a chance to network with each other and discuss how to encourage local, independent businesses and neighborhood nutrition.

The Enterprise Center has no qualms about aiding a local produce store against the threat posed by distant supermarkets. Toy points out that West Phillie Produce hires from the immediate neighborhood, is easy to access without a car, and is owned by someone who resides in the area. It also opened on what used to be an unsightly abandoned lot. The store doesn’t just sell produce either, as it offers nutritional smoothies, water ice, and juices.

This is the first Carrotmob to inundate Philadelphia, although an attempt was made in the past. The Carrotmob concept began in California, and has spread across the world. In addition to the Enterprise Center, participating organizations include the Food Trust, the Merchants Fund, and Sayre Health Clinic.

Toy is happy to assist the Carrotmob effort in Philadelphia. "We like the Carrotmob concept because it results in a real tangible outcome that benefits a worthy business," he proclaims. "We hope to replicate this effort in other neighborhoods across the City." As for the Carrotmob at West Phillie Produce, it’s scheduled to run from 4-7 PM this Friday.

Source: Andy Toy, the Enterprise Center
Writer: Andy Sharpe
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