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Greensboro’s Black Community Turn’s ‘Food Desert’ Into $2 Million Co-Op

For almost two decades, the residents who live in a predominantly African-American Greensboro neighborhood didn’t have a place to shop for food. The community tried to attract the attention of a popular grocery store, but when that plan didn’t work, they decided to open their own store.

Last year, New Economy Week reported on this Greensboro community and the people’s plan to create their own grocery supply. The publication recently reached out to the neighborhood to see how their plans were coming along.

Guilford County in North Carolina currently has 24 “food deserts.” Food deserts are defined as neighborhoods that are considered high-poverty, where at least a third of the resident live a mile or greater from the nearest grocery store. Seventeen of these 24 food deserts are in Greensboro.

The 2014 report from the Committee on Food Desert Zones in North Carolina states that people who live in these food deserts are more likely to have diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases, along with other health conditions. The report also states that “the consequences of food deserts could be enormous for public health, the economy, national security and more.”

The Northeast Greensboro community is one of the 24 food deserts. The people who live there haven’t had a grocery store in their neighborhood for about 20 years.

Winn-Dixie, the local grocery store for the community, closed in 1998. The grocery store was actually profitable, but the city was torn between supporting Winn-Dixie and other popular grocery chains, so the store closed its Phillips Avenue location. In the years that followed the Winn-Dixie closing, Northeast Greensboro residents requested the help of the city to bring a new full-service grocery to the community, but had no success. No major grocery chain was willing to invest in opening a store in a small community, because the investment wouldn’t bring about a substantial profit.

In 2012, residents of the community partnered with Fund for Democratic Communities (F4DC) members. F4DC is a Greensboro grassroots organization, and through meetings, members of the neighborhood learned that waiting for a company to bring a grocery store to their community wasn’t a requirement. The residents learned that they could open a store themselves. That’s how the Renaissance Community Co-op (RCC) was born.

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