Plans in store to help the Harrisburg food desert

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– The demolition project for the 15th Street Kroger is now in full swing.

MCG Foundation owns that property and has plans for new development, but there’s one problem many living in that area are facing right now: access to food.

“I think the question is: What are we going to do in the interim?” Ian Mercier, President of the MCG Foundation, said.

The 15th Street Kroger closed its doors in February, and ever since, this area is considered a food desert. Some are now having to buy groceries from Dollar General, a local meat store or even turning to fast food chains.

Mercier  said this food insecurity is a priority. The foundation has a contract with the city to secure a grocery store tenant in that area.

“One of the challenges, of course, is when you have a grocery store that leaves because of revenue issues, attracting another store to come in right behind them becomes very difficult,” Mercier said.

Even though people here have been promised a grocery store at some point– that doesn’t help them access food now.

“We’ve had posed to us as a foundation, well, you have all the property where the store used to be. It’s going to be a natural connecting point because that’s where the store was– Should you consider putting a pantry there?” Mercier said.

MCG foundation is considering this, but several factors weigh in. Mercier mentioned several organizations helping with the food deficit, specifically Augusta Locally Grown.

Kim Hines, Director of the program, explained opportunities for affordable food in the Harrisburg community– the Tuesday Farmer’s Market being one.

“It’s the only Farmer’s Market in the Augusta area that doubles SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps or E.B.T. We also have several cooking demonstrations there, free kids summer meals that are healthy, local farmers who are selling local fruits and vegetables there,” Hines explained.

“We’re trying to collaborate with all of our developing partners to identify the best place for a grocery store because there’s no doubt that we’re all concerned that is a food desert,” Mercier concluded.

On Tuesday of this week, several community leaders, churches and pantry organizations met to discuss this entire area and how to solve the food desert issue for Harrisburg. Though there are no -concrete- plans, the issue is high on the their priority list.

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