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Fresh Food Available for NC "Food Deserts" Through Business Loan Program

Photo: Before picture Raleigh? market, that Reinvestment Partners has since rehabbed. Courtesy: Reinvestment Partners
Photo: Before picture Raleigh? market, that Reinvestment Partners has since rehabbed. Courtesy: Reinvestment Partners
August 27, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. - In dozens of communities in North Carolina, finding fresh fruit and vegetables isn't always easy. Instead, people find lots of processed and sugary foods that nutritionists say add to the growing obesity problem in the state.

The Support Center in Raleigh is offering a new loan program for entrepreneurs who want to bring fresh produce to underserved communities. According to the organization's president, Lenwood Long, fresh produce is hard to come by in North Carolina's "food deserts."

"You will not find fresh vegetables and fruit" in such places, he said. "You'll find the sweets that will not lead to a healthy diet."

Food deserts describe urban areas where it's difficult to find affordable or good-quality fresh food. Some 171 communities in North Carolina are thus described. The resources available for entrepreneurs interested in changing the situation in such places are listed in the Healthy Food Resource Guide available on The Support Center's website.

Long said they are encouraging such projects as the creation of community gardens, mobile food trucks and door-to-door vegetable sales.

The Support Center recently gave a loan to a Durham corner store to rehab its building. Peter Skillern, the executive director of Reinvestment Partners in Raleigh, helped initiate the project and noted that an accessible place to buy fresh produce has an immediate effect on the residents.

"There's a sense of optimism and hope that's created, to take a corner store that's scary and distressed and turning it into a friendly community market," Skillern declared. "That's a benefit immediately."

Lenwood Long said the new loan program aims to help create jobs and advance the entire community.

He cited "the impact in economic development. The impact on education. It's all impacted by the lack of healthy food in these areas."

The Healthy Food Resource Guide also offers information on other sources of funding, beyond the loans available from The Support Center.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC