Luna's Groceries

Allied Drive/Dunn’s Marsh neighborhood resident Marlien Arguela browses the aisles of Luna’s Groceries Monday, April 8, 2019.

Around 18 months ago, Luna’s Groceries equipped the Allied Drive/Dunn’s Marsh neighborhood with fresh food options.

It’s an area that had been without a grocery store since 2009 until Luna’s opened in January 2019.

Now, amid a health, economic and social justice crisis, the grocer’s role in serving Allied Drive/Dunn’s Marsh has been amplified, owner Mariam Maldonano told the Star.

What she once called a neighborhood of many “flavors” and colors is part of a national population that has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent racial tensions. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Black people are hospitalized at a rate five times higher than their white counterparts, and Latinos at a rate of four times as of June 12.

Maldonado now sees Luna’s – named after her grandfather – as a hub for “education, policy change, health equity and economic justice,” she told the Star in an email.

She said, for example, the 2,240 Square foot grocer is a strong advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Our entire staff and residents have lived experiences with systems that have caused harm to them and in some cases caused death to their loved ones,” Maldonado wrote.

To support the BLM cause, Luna’s Groceries has promoted its voices through a “Coffee at Luna’s” community table series. It buys from minority-led organizations featuring minority products.

“We remain committed to playing our role while partnering with others who support our mission,” Maldonado wrote. “We unequivocally believe that Black Lives Matter and are here for our Black residents and neighbors and support the youth and community-based organizations that are pushing for systemic change.”

Luna’s Groceries staff has also helped educate customers about how to remain healthy during the pandemic, Maldonado said.

The 2,240 square-foot grocer keeps its guests informed about COVID-19 through posted materials in both Spanish and English, Maldonado said, along with social media updates and even interviews with health professionals about the latest COVID-19 developments.

The business plans in the next few years to amplify its role in another way – by building a store in another food desert, at 1402 S. Park St.

Luna’s Groceries would anchor a $41.3 million development of the vacant Madison-owned Truman Olson property with a 24,000 square-foot-space, according to a Jan. 17 Wisconsin State Journal story.

“We did not anticipate expanding so soon,” Maldonado wrote. “There will be a clear need for food access in South Madison.”

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.