Southeast Raleigh grocery store aims to offer food desert relief

06/04/2014 10:29 AM

02/15/2015 11:25 AM

A new, small grocery store will offer fresh, affordable produce and other healthy foods in an area of Southeast Raleigh with few convenient grocery options.

The Galley Grocery Store, a project that brings together two local churches, opened recently at 402 Bragg St., just south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The 900-square-foot store is painted a cheerful yellow, and its shelves are stocked with fruits and vegetables, dairy and pantry staples, including canned goods and baking supplies.

The store’s organizers hope the Galley will give nearby residents access to a variety of foods that they typically can’t get at the convenience stores that dot the neighborhood at prices lower than those offered at the grocery stores that are too far away for some families.

As the nonprofit store grows, the organizers want it to help anchor the neighborhood as a gathering place and a source of job opportunities and training.

“We want to be here. We want to be consistent in people’s lives,” said Christopher Jones, a pastor at Ship of Zion Ministries, a partner in the effort.

The store has its roots in a partnership between Ship of Zion, which is a few blocks from the store, and Hope Community Church off Buck Jones Road in West Raleigh.

The two churches have long worked together to improve the Southeast Raleigh community with projects around food, health care and economic development.

After two Kroger stores pulled out of the area about 18 months ago, officials at the two churches started talking about ways to fill the void.

Larger grocery stores are at least a few miles away from the neighborhood. For residents who rely on public transportation, a trip to those larger stores can be difficult because of the time and money it takes to travel, said Bill Fulton, vice chairman of the Ship Outreach and Community Center, a community development organization with representatives from each church.

Parts of Southeast Raleigh classify as a “food desert” according to USDA guidelines. A food desert is a census tract that meets two “low-income” and “low-access” community thresholds: Its poverty rate is 20 percent or greater, or its median family income is 80 percent below the area median family income; and at least 500 individuals, or at least 33 percent of the tract’s residents, live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.

A variety of local efforts are underway to address that lack of access, including the development of a food cooperative, a variety of community gardens and a project called Grocers on Wheels.

While Hope Community Church helped provide funding for the store, Fulton said a partnership with the local community was important to ensure that the effort truly addressed the needs of the neighborhood.

“From a ministry perspective, we really do this for the community,” he said.

Once the churches settled on the idea of a grocery store, they drew up a business plan and got assistance from Dan Thomas, store team leader at Whole Foods in Cary.

Thomas offered his expertise about how to run a store, as well as materials including shelving, coolers and furniture.

Galley is arranged with healthy options up front and snacks tucked in the back. The store does not sell alcohol or tobacco. In the future, organizers would like to offer cooking and gardening demonstrations and may team with other nearby organizations to do so.

“We want people to go home and cook,” Thomas said.

The store also accepts food stamps, now known as SNAP benefits, through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Benefits through the Women, Infants and Children nutritional program should be accepted soon, said Fulton.

He urged commuters to swing by the store on their way out of downtown for the last-minute items on their grocery lists.

“It really will help what we’re doing here. We need their support,” he said.

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