Local business helps Cleveland County fight its way out of food desert

CLEVELAND COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A major discount retailer is doing its part to help a local county that is considered one of the unhealthiest in the state.

Dollar General is offering fresh foods at one of its locations in Cleveland County, in an area that's known as a food desert. For cities like Fallston, the nearest Walmart or Ingles is at least 20 minutes away.

For Fallston resident Loyd Lewis, farming is everything. He loves his livelihood and has been doing so there for more than 50 years.

"I like it. If I didn't like it, I would have quit a long time ago because it's hard work. Hard and long hours," says Lewis.

And Lewis has a lot to offer on his mid-sized farm.

"Tomatoes here, squash and cucumbers... we also have corn, cantaloupes, cabbage, watermelons."

A whole lot to offer.

"All kind of greens, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, and we grow a lot of broccoli."

But Lewis can only grow so much at a time, and he says he sells out of his fruits and veggies often. He tries to do his part and provide enough produce for his customers, but Cleveland County is considered a food desert, which means it's not easy to come by healthy foods.

"We try to keep a lot here because we have a lot of customers stop here."

The closest grocery stores for Fallston residents are about 20 minutes away.

"We're what you say 'out in the country,'" Lewis said.

The county is also known as one of the state's unhealthiest areas. But getting your hands on some bananas, apples, or lettuce should no longer be a hassle.

It's now only a hop skip and a jump away to purchase produce, now that the Dollar General, which sits in the central part of town, sells its own variety of fruits and vegetables.

Lewis doesn't mind the new competition. He believes his business will be just fine, and hopes people begin to fuel their bodies better now that there are more options to choose from.

"Eat fresh stuff."

With more healthy food options available, county leaders are hoping this is a step in a better direction. Dollar General has not said yet if the chain will add produce to its other locations in the county.

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