‘Something we can invest in:’ Mecklenburg County commissioner supports proposal adding fresh markets in West Charlotte to alleviate food insecurity

A recent study showed that West Blvd. has not had a grocery store in more than 20 years
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 8:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Grabbing a carton of milk, bread, eggs, and other grocery items is an easy task for many people except people who live in food deserts.

A food desert is defined as an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.

Food insecurity is a harsh reality for close to 15 percent of households in Mecklenburg County.

Food insecurity is when a person does not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

Back in 2018, the Board of County Commissioners Approved $3 million dollars to study food insecurity and other resources.

On Tuesday night, the BOCC reviewed the findings done by UNC Charlotte and other community partners who have a plan to build cooperative markets with fresh food, education opportunities, and a community kitchen.

The study found West Blvd. has not had a grocery store in more than 20 years, making it a food desert.

“For twenty years the people living there have not had fresh food, healthy food,” said District Five county commissioner Laura Meier.

“There’s nothing fresh, like okra and stuff like that,” said Shorty who lives in West Charlotte.

According to the Office of Management and Budget for Mecklenburg County Government: The FY2021 budget included $3M to address food deserts. A total of $660,500 was spent ($272,000 for the study and $388,500 for various food security initiatives managed by the Health Department). The remaining amount of $2,339,500 was carried forward to use in FY2022.

UNC Charlotte researchers along with West Charlotte neighborhood coalitions, churches, and other community organizations are a part of the “working group” responsible for the study.

The study includes a proposal for the county to contribute $1.7 million of the $3 million to support two smaller grocery stores on West Blvd and Beatties Ford Road.

If the plans move forward, an additional six million dollars would be contributed by other investors.

Meier says the next steps are in the hands of community partners including churches, neighborhood coalitions, and research partners.

“The entire board is willing and ready to go. The money is there from the $3 million from the 2018 board so all we need is a business plan so we need to make sure the money we are investing is a good use of the taxpayer dollar.”

People along West Blvd say they rely on the mini-marts, convenience stores, or dollar stores for produce but say it isn’t always fresh.

“Tear these old buildings down and build them up, grocery stores to help the young, the old, the middle-aged, the poor,” Shorty said.”

The proposal entails a full-service, for-profit, cooperative market with wrap-around services, Meier says the benefits will be priceless.

“It has the education, it has a kitchen, fresh food, fresh healthy eats, this is something that we need something that we can invest in the people.”

Meier hopes they can move forward by the end of this year but until then - she’s calling out corporations who don’t have grocery stores in food deserts.

“I challenge these grocery stores to make it a point to open up for the people in West Charlotte,” Meier.

Mecklenburg County also added four new farmer’s markets to combat food insecurity.

  • Valerie C. Woodard Center, 3205 Freedom Drive, operating Fridays, 2 – 4 p.m.
  • The Plaza Academy for Youth, 1000 Anderson Street, operating Wednesdays, 4 – 7 p.m.
  • North End Farmers Market, 300 Camp Road, operating Wednesdays, 4 – 8 p.m.
  • Urban Farm at Aldersgate, 4101 Somerdale Lane, operating Thursdays, 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.

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