The Sustainable Food Center has launched a new program called the Neighborhood Pop-up Grocery Project to provide food relief in low-income areas of Austin by turning restaurant dining rooms into grocery markets.


The new program, in partnership with Foodshed Investors and with funding by the City of Austin, helps restaurants that have empty or partially empty dining rooms use that space to sell produce, meat and dairy that SFC buys, mostly from local sources, and the restaurants get to keep the profits.


In late April, the first pop-up market opened at Hecho en Mexico at 2101 Montopolis Drive, and for the past few weeks, it has been selling dry goods, fruits and vegetables on tables in the dining room and restaurant and meats, cheese, eggs and more from a cooler in the back. The restaurant recently re-opened for some dine-in customers, and the grocery market is open each day the restaurant is.


According to SFC, these partner businesses receive high-quality meat, dairy, vegetables, fruits and dry goods, much of which will be purchased from local farmers and ranchers, at no cost, and then they sell these products to their local community at a low price point while retaining all proceeds.


Jenifer DeAtley, SFC’s farm viability director, says this model allows restaurants to generate additional revenue and retain staff, while increasing food shopping options for low-income families and supporting local farmers. These pop-up groceries will be less crowded and require less travel than traditional full-service grocery stores, all the while keeping Austinites’ food dollars in the local food economy at a critically important time, DeAtley says.


SFC is looking for additional small business partners, and inquiries can be sent to jdeatley@sustainablefoodcenter.org.