by Megan Leigh Barnard

Concrete Garden

A trek from East Broad across the Mighty Scioto River on to West Broad will tell the tale of two Columbus boroughs existing adjacent from each other but in very strict dichotomy.

On the east side of the aqua equator, streets are crawling with high-dollar cars speeding towards high-rises and lunch meetings. On the other, Franklinton bus stops are crowded by folks just trying to make it from A to B.

As time wears on, folks mosey towards their respective neighborhoods bursting with bountiful meal options. But west of the border, save a distant Aldi, it’s a damn fresh food desert.

Wait, what’s that off in the distance?

A mirage?

No, it’s Jubilee Market & Cafe—Franklinton’s food oasis.

Born out of a dire need for affordable nutrition when no other major grocery chain would come to the rescue of the historic Columbus neighborhood, Jubilee is not only the best and only option for fresh fruits and vegetables in the Franklinton proper, but operates under a well-intentioned trifecta of pillars designed specifically to serve its low-income residents.

“We thought, ‘If nobody
is going to [build a grocery store] then we’re going
to have to do it.’”

“I approached a number of grocery stores to see if they would build a small one down here [in Franklinton] and I couldn’t get any interest at all,” said Ann Schiele, Strategy Officer at Lower Lights Christian Health Center and the person in charge of rounding up funding for the market and cafe.

Jubilee is an extension of LLCHC which is a faith-based, federally qualified health center focused on providing the underserved populations of Columbus with mind, body, and soul wellness, regardless of the ability
to pay.

Being located in Franklinton from which a large portion of their client base hails, Schiele and her team at LLCHC, namely Dr. Dana Vallangeon who started the health center, were keenly aware of the community’s shortcomings.

“In our Health Center, many of the patients we see have been diagnosed with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity,” explained Tracy Cloud, Interim CEO of LLCHC. “Access to healthy foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, is a critical part of their treatment plan.”

They knew what they had to do.

“So, we thought, ‘If nobody is going to [build a grocery store] then we’re going
to have to do it,’” said Schiele.

Over the course of the next two years, LLCHC transformed a 4500-square-foot blank slate of extra space inside their headquarters at 1160 W Broad St. into a modern day sanctuary of produce, hot and fresh food, employment options, and community togetherness.

Besides a warm, “Welcome, we’re so delighted to have you!” from Schiele, Jubilee customers are greeted by a small seating area adorned with grayscale photos of Columbus’s yesteryears, open-faced coolers with grab-and-go and frozen meal options options (including Johnny Marzetti, ay-yo), and savory smells from the neighboring cafe.

Operated for profit by Milo’s catering (psst, you know Tommy’s Diner, right?), the cafe offers hot food under the moniker of another one of the brand’s smash hits, Graze.

“You can be assured that this is the freshest food you’re ever going to eat. It’s made right here and it’s absolutely delicious,” boasted Schiele.

“You can be assured that this
is the freshest food you’re ever
going to eat. It’s made right here
and it’s absolutely delicious.”

Graze hangs its apron on comfort food staples like mac and cheese and pork sandwiches with a mature twist, which they make fresh daily out of their commercial kitchen upstairs. Other than the name recognition drawing in hungry lunch crowds, Jubilee benefits from Graze’s success by reaping a portion of its profits to help cover the costs of the grocery store.

“If you shop here, you know you’re doing it for others, so it’s really a good model,” assures Schiele.

A huge cheerleader for Graze, Schiele emphasized that Jubilee’s “main goal is to get the fresh fruits and vegetables to [the people of Franklinton].”

So without further ado, let’s travel further into the depths of Jubilee where the real meat and potatoes are (literally).

Apples, lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, bananas, carrots, cucumbers, grapes, broccoli—all these products and more heaped up on wooden produce stands near the entrance of the market are not only ripe and ready, but sourced responsibly, if not locally.

“The companies we purchase from all have a mission focus,” explained Schiele, using Schwebel’s breads as an example. “The nice thing about the breads is when they look like they’re getting close to expiring, [Schwebel’s] comes and take them and has a ‘same day’ sale so we don’t have waste.”

Similarly, some of Jubilee’s produce farmers work on consignment, which means the market only pays them for what was sold. The market keeps it local by buying eggs from Happy Chicken Farms out of Grove City and offering select produce items like kale and collard greens from the nearby non-profit, Franklinton Farms.

“We try to buy from the neighborhood!” Schiele said proudly.

What’s more is that as a nonprofit built upon LLCHC’s humanitarian and non-discriminatory ideals, Jubilee offers all their products at a price everybody can afford.

“Many of the customers are on a sliding fee scale so they can get financial eligibility,” explained Schiele. “They can be charged according to their income.”

Schiele estimates about 40 percent of Jubilee’s customers benefit from this model.

They’re also accepting of Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP), which is another form of assistance to get low-income customers the nutrition they need at a cost they can swing.

Schiele and her humanitarian posse provide Franklinton with the tools for affordable nutrition, as well as the resources to teach them how to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

A crew of dietitians and nutritionists stand behind the market to provide customers with lifestyle coaching and even assist them in grocery stopping, free of charge.

And coming soon, each packaged item available in the market will be given either a green, yellow, or red sticker; green being great for you, yellow being moderate and “Boy those red dots, they’re high in carbs,” explained Schiele jokingly.

Jubilee is a market for Franklinton, by Franklinton.

The market employs eight people, both part and full time, who’ve spent their lives stomping on Franklinton grounds.

“I’m proud to say that nearly all of our Jubilee staff are residents of Franklinton,” said Cloud.

Individuals with a few marks on their records need not fear being turned away for employment either—Jubilee understands mistakes and even provides its employees with job coaching so that they can learn new skills and become successful employees there and beyond.

“[The store manager] is willing to mentor [employees] and train them if they show up. She said maybe if they leave us in a year or two for a better job, or they want to move on to a giant eagle where you have more promotional opportunities, she’ll help them in the door.

Creating new jobs for the neighborhood is just another example of how “We didn’t do this for Lower Lights, we did it for the community,” explained Schiele.

Having only opened in mid-late May, Schiele said the company is still struggling with awareness. They’ve launched some initiatives to help get their word out in hopes “Jubilee” will soon become a household name.

When—not if—that happens, Schiele hopes Jubilee
becomes a place where people want to do more than just eat
and grocery shop.

She images Jubilee being a destination for monthly programs highlighting artists and/or musicians of Franklinton.

“It wouldn’t cost anything,” Schiele said. “They can just come down, enjoy the coffee bar, or a soda, or not buy anything at all! Just come in and enjoy.”

By tackling nutrition, creating jobs, and cultivating a sense
of community, Jubilee is helping to get Franklinton back on track to becoming a healthy, flourishing neighborhood, one piece of produce at a time. •

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