Tacoma grocery store aims to be an oasis in a ‘food desert’

TACOMA, Wash. -- Over the past several decades in the South Sound, many locally-run grocery stores and delis have disappeared and big box stores have taken over.

That’s created what are known as “food deserts,” where quality healthy food options have been stripped away for residents.

In the heart of Tacoma, right on Broadway, tucked away among the other small businesses is Flip Fresh.

“This is a healthy convenient store,” said owner, Abbie Cates. “It’s really a good way to get healthy food on the go with our compromising your diet or lifestyle."

Her small 1,500 square foot store is her healthy food oasis.

“We have beet and goat cheese ravioli, that's my personal favorite. We have sweet mustard chicken,” rattles off Cates.

“It’s really nice to come here and get fresh and local, mostly local stuff,” said customer Greg Snyder.

“Grocery stores kind of have a bad rap of having the good stuff on the outside and the bad stuff on the inside of the aisle and so I wanted every choice here to be a good choice,” said Cates.

She decided to create Flip Fresh, flipping the food industry around by opening this store in downtown Tacoma a few weeks ago, with no messy aisles and easy, grab-and-go food options.

“We do the prepping, we do the slicing, we do the dicing; so it goes from freezer to oven, freezer to stove top,” said Cates, who does the food prep in a commercial kitchen in Gig Harbor.

She says she sources food locally, doesn’t add preservatives and makes everything by hand.

“I have three small children, and I know when I eat well and take care of myself and feed them well we’re a better family unit and I want to pass that joy and love of food and that lifestyle onto other people to do it easily,” said Cates.

Her meals are designed for one or two people.

"We average about $8 to $10 per person, per serving,” said Cates. “We’re all so busy and the last thing we need to do is stop taking care of ourselves."

She says if Flip Fresh takes off in Tacoma, it could be a model to create healthy food oasis in other cities that are food deserts.

"Whether they’re food deserts because grocers have left or for socio-economic reasons or whatever that reason might be. To take this model in, to use food that’s in the community and bring healthy food into the community and once we get this nailed down we’ll look at what else we can take it,” said Cates.

She is also launching a delivery service and custom meal subscription kits through her website.

The Tacoma Pierce County Health Department also has a list of ways they are working to help combat food deserts.