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U of M students seek to provide Memphians with fresh produce through new business venture

<p>The founders of BlackMajesTEA, Nadia X (left) and Olivia Roman (right).&nbsp;</p>
The founders of BlackMajesTEA, Nadia X (left) and Olivia Roman (right). 

The Black MajesTEA Co-op (BMT) is a Memphis-based nonprofit organization that began operations Jan. 28 of this year. The group's goal is to make buying produce a manageable and sustainable option for Memphians located in food deserts.

Olivia Roman, co-founder of Black MajesTEA LLC – which sponsors the BMT Co-op spoke on how this company runs and maintains a fun, new and efficient way to receive healthier food.

“Every week, we provide a pick-up service where clients can receive a boxed variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs for only $30 — much less than they’d spend on the same items at a grocery store,” Roman explained.

The produce comes from local wholesalers and suppliers, as well as Nadia Foster – CEO of the organization and senior at the University of Memphis. She sometimes supplies hand-picked, fresh herbs from the garden located on campus.

According to food insecurity data from Feeding America, a national food bank network, in 2019 – the most recent year that the data was available for – 12.4% of Shelby County residents were food insecure. The USDA defines food insecurity as a “lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.”

From 2017, the first year of data that is provided, to 2019, the percentage of Shelby County residents that were food insecure was on a downward trend. But healthier food selections are always important to have in the Mid-South area, so aside from offering pickups, Black MajesTEA LLC began donating extra produce to local charities. This includes the University of Memphis Tiger Pantry.

“We have donated to the Tiger Pantry once so far," Roman said, "We are so grateful to be able to give back to our campus, especially to an organization that provides food to students in need and does not always have fresh produce readily available. It meant so much to be able to help so many people in our community get healthy options on their tables.”

The group looks forward to working with Tiger Pantry again in the future and is also getting in contact with other charitable organizations across Memphis that accept produce donations. The hope is that this will help evolve the brand's clientele and push a movement for healthier food options in Memphis.

“Our numbers fluctuate—we may have four customers one week, and then have eleven the next. I expect that our clients will continue to grow in number as our nonprofit becomes more well-known in the Memphis community,” Roman said.

The mission for the organization is to make produce as affordable and accessible as possible for all Memphians. It is dedicated to keeping the prices lower than those at many grocery stores.

The founders of Black MajesTEA LLC plan on sustaining the business by building a larger customer base, as they rely on their patronage and donations to operate. This non-profit wants to help as many Memphians as possible and are looking forward to helping even more clients and collaborating with local, mission-driven charities that it becomes nationwide.

The founders of BlackMajesTEA, Nadia X (left) and Olivia Roman (right). 

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