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'It's a start;' Norfolk's St. Paul's community taking first steps to eliminate food desert

St. Paul’s CDC has received two grants totaling over $140,000. That money will go towards food delivery boxes and a new fresh food market.

NORFOLK, Va. — A Norfolk neighborhood stuck in a food desert is getting some relief.

A year after the St. Paul’s neighborhood’s only source of fresh food shut down, a grant is bringing fruits and vegetables right to residents' front doors.

Last year, Save A Lot closed their doors, leaving St. Paul’s area residents with no fresh food options nearby.

"This is going to be a disaster to us because this is the closest area to us," Deanna Mourning, a Young Terrace resident, told us right before the store closed.

RELATED: Closing grocery store in Norfolk's St. Paul's neighborhood leaves residents without access to nearby fresh produce

The closest alternatives are at least one mile away, leaving them with less healthy options.

"A lot of that comes from fast food and convenience stores," said Carla Bryce, Food Pharmacy Program Coordinator for the St. Paul's Community Development Corporation.

Marie Carter, a board member for the SPCDC and also a middle school math teacher, said she sees that affect some of her students.

"When a student is suffering from food insecurity, their minds are not going to be focused on learning math," she said. "It’s harder to learn when your stomach is rumbling."

But now, food is on the way.

In the last two weeks, Bryce said the St. Paul’s CDC has received two grants totaling over $140,000.

"It’s a start. It really is a start."

Some of that money will go towards food box deliveries.

Residents can enroll and get two boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables per month along with recipes.

"Basically what we’re doing is we’re making whole food and fresh food available here in the community," she said. "We're also giving an alternative to traditional medicine to treat chronic illness, whether it be diabetes, high blood pressure, whether it be high cholesterol. How do we treat this or how can we supplement your pharmacy prescription with fresh whole food."

The rest will support a new fresh food market that will offer health education and and provide information about how to access SNAP and Virginia Fresh Match.   

"Not only will we have food available in these supermarkets, but it’s gonna work as a community center and workforce development and, you know, a place that the neighborhoods can call their own and be invested in," said Carter.

Bryce said people in the St. Paul’s area can enroll in the Food Pharmacy program now and once they complete the signup and go to an orientation, they should see that box of fresh fruits and vegetables about two weeks later.

 According to the USDA’s latest data, about 19 million people, or about 6% of the country’s population, live in food deserts.

Both Bryce and Carter said this is just the first step in getting healthy food into people’s pantries. 

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