An Oasis of Fresh: Olympia Auset’s Süprmarkt Tackles Los Angeles Food Deserts, One Produce Box at a Time

Photo by Christel Robleto

Living on the border of Inglewood, Olympia Auset found it a real struggle to get fresh food, especially since she was vegan and didn’t drive. Everywhere she looked stood liquor stores or fast food joints. It would take her two hours or more on the bus every time she needed to go to a grocery store. To make it worse, her loved ones started getting sick and passing away. By the time she got to college, Auset was determined to learn more about our food system and how she could truly create change. Put simply, she wanted everyone she cared about to stick around. And it wasn’t going to happen in South Los Angeles, where 1.3 million residents share just sixty grocery stores. 

SÜprmarkt, Auset’s brain and heart child, is a low-cost organic grocery that makes it easy and affordable for all people to eat well, no matter where they are. Her personal experience was a catalyst, as well as the fact that 23.5 million other Americans live in food deserts over a mile away from access to fresh food. The negative impact is well documented, like the tripling of disease due to poor diet—often because of no access to healthy foods and little education about health and nutrition. 

SÜprmarkt runs pop-ups in food desert areas. Customers can pick out fruits and vegetables or choose to a have a big box packed with produce delivered to them anywhere in Los Angeles. The box costs $25 per week or $100 per month. This is about half what you get per person with EBT (Los Angeles County’s Electronic Benefit Transfer), and guarantees that people have fresh fruits and veggies in their fridge at all times. 

Suprmarkt is an idea that’s caught on, even though they’re still challenged by building a team and creating enough operational and organizational strength to be able to serve even more. Just awarded 501(c) status, the company is kind of a hybrid. One side sells produce, while the other is more a non-profit and focused on education, workshops, and keeping the costs of the food down. The next goal to achieve is a physical location that provides constant access to produce, plus a learning center for the community.

“I want people to learn how to be chefs and how to make food for themselves,” Auset tells me. “We want to be a driving force in changing the way people think about food and also helping people apply what they’ve learned.”

Auset herself walks the talk wherever she can. A raw vegan, she initiated the creation of the hundred foot “Let’s Be Good to Each Other” mural at 54th and Crenshaw, and serves on the board of the food collective Co-opportunity as well. She’s media savvy, and also aware that no matter how cool your messaging is, it won’t work if it doesn’t appeal to your audience. It also helps to be culturally sensitive.

“If you’re dealing with people who love to eat tacos, my job isn’t to tell them to stop eating tacos. My job instead is to tell them how to stay away from GMO corn, or how to use a coconut-based tortilla,” Auset explains. “They can still have that savory flavor, but why not try this vegan sausage? They could also use oil instead of lard to cook rice. Or, if they don’t want to use rice, substitute quinoa.”

“Talking is important,” Auset continues. “Education is important. But the most powerful thing is when you make someone a delicious, plant-based, healthy meal that tastes better than what they would normally eat.”

There are plenty of ways to get involved and support the mission: you can offer to volunteer remotely or locally. Even better, you can sign up for the One for One program, where $200 buys you four veggie-packed boxes and also delivers the same to someone in need. SÜprmarkt even offers ways to connect the two of you, like recipe sharing. It’s a powerful way to help each other and help ourselves.

To donate or volunteer, visit 


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