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'Oasis' Micro-Grocery Offers Healthy Options In Russell Food Desert

A group of public and private organizations on Thursday opened a small, retail food shop in the lobby of the Sister Visitors Center.

The center is a social services agency that serves the Russell and Portland neighborhoods, areas with limited access to fresh food.

The shop, called Oasis, is a collaboration between Dare to Care, Catholic Charities of Louisville, Buehler’s Cash Savers Market, and Louisville Forward. It’s a six-month pilot project — one that looks different than many ventures intended to curb food insecurity.

For starters, Oasis is very small; it’s about the size of a gas station convenience store, which organizers say will keep overhead costs low.

And, as Mayor Greg Fischer said during a news conference at the store’s opening, that’s different than how most grocery chains are currently operating.

“What we’re seeing with these for-profit companies is they are just getting bigger with the scale of their stores,” Fischer said. “And in order for them to make the type of return they feel they need to make, they’re going to fewer, bigger stores.”

Over the past few years, the city has seen branches of Kroger, First Link and Pic Pac close, drastically impacting Louisville’s poorer neighborhoods’ access to fresh produce.

However, Oasis will not operate as a one-stop grocery store. Matt Dills is the COO of Cash Savers Market. He said the Oasis store is meant to be an inexpensive supplement to some of the stores in West Louisville that sell shelf-stable food, but lack fresh options.

“And I think the best way to approach it is to sell it frozen, so fresh-frozen,” Dills said. “Fresh-frozen produce is actually fresher than what you’re buying off the shelf at room temperature.”

It’s also a way, Dills said, to ensure that quality produce doesn’t go to waste.