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St. Louis Business Journal: First Lady Obama Highlights BELL's Success

Social innovation through Juice

St. Louis Business Journal - by Diana Barr
Date: Thursday, June 10, 2010, 11:45am CDT - Last Modified: Saturday, October 16, 2010, 2:25am CDT

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Diana Barr
Associate Editor
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A health-focused corner store and its nonprofit partner were singled out for recognition at a recent White House event.

In a presentation May 27, first lady Michelle Obama announced the initial matching commitments made by philanthropists to the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a competitive grant program intended to funnel funding to community-based projects addressing problems from poverty to failing schools.

Shawn Mckie and Angie Beatty, co-founders of the Juice Project in St. Louis, had been invited to the ceremony, but were surprised to find their project among three Obama highlighted during her speech.

"The Juice Project in St. Louis is an example of early stage innovation, founded by two young community leaders who are here with us today," Obama said, nodding to Mckie and Beatty. "Juice has taken a corner store in a low-income neighborhood in south St. Louis and remade it into a one-stop shop for healthy living, known as the Juice Box."

Through the Juice Project, a partnership between for-profit store Juice Box LLC and nonprofit JUICE (Jumpstarting Urban Innovation with Critical Thinking and Exercise) Inc., the store, at Arsenal and Gravois, stocks healthy, affordable snacks, and offers free art, education and exercise activities for the community.

Mckie and Beatty are respectively principals in Juice Box and JUICE Inc.

While relating Juice Project's details, Obama said, "Now you know this is right up my alley, right?" The first lady also is leading an effort to fight childhood obesity by improving nutrition.

The Juice Project had not applied for funding through the SIF, thinking that as a startup, it wouldn't be competitive, Mckie said. But the founders plan to tackle the application process during the next round, given Obama's positive comments.

Mckie said the Juice Project was the only St. Louis program represented at the May 27 event, which focused on SIF contributors.

Obama also singled out the Boston-based BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) tutoring and mentoring program, and the Family Independence Initiative, a San Francisco-based program to fight poverty.

Click here to see all of Michelle Obama's presentation.

The Social Innovation Fund is housed at the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. For more information, go here.