A Tale of Two Pantries

Courtney Cordoza
Staff Writer

Correction:

The Carolinian misreported that the Renaissance Community Co-op as a food bank. The Renaissance Community Co-op is a retail grocery store that obtains its products through licensed distributors and suppliers, not donations.

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Photo credit: b5foan/Flickr

For most, grocery shopping is a weekly ritual. We make our trek through the aisles, crossing items off of a curated list. We wait through the long lines until it is our turn to check out. Afterwards, we make the drive home to put groceries away. This is often seen as a monotonous task that everyone completes. For some of our neighbors, they wish that was their reality.

Clocking in with a total of seventeen food deserts, Greensboro is one of the nation’s top cities with food insecurity. Food deserts are defined as being a residential area with a high poverty rate. At least one-third of its residents have no sufficient grocery store within one mile.

Food deserts are seen in urban, minority areas that have been marginalized by the systematic act of gentrification. They are disregarded by urban planners who continue to take land from their neighborhoods and build new ones for the affluent in the city. This practice is prejudiced toward those in lower economic classes.

Typically those who are African American endure the worst of this injustice. This goes back to redlining of the 1960’s, a tactic used by the U.S. Government to separate racial groups from one another. Redlining was outlawed in 1968 but has made its way into another form: racial gerrymandering.

The residents of the area tend to have a lower income, making transportation costs an issue. The closest shops within walking distance are convenience stores. These corner shops do more harm than good. The products they sell are typically overpriced, over-processed junk.

With limited choices, this makes parents feed their children with these products. A diet filled with high calorie, low nutrient foods is in no way sustainable for growing children. This kind of a diet creates a growing increase of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Without decent medical coverage, many residents are unable to receive proper treatment and medication for their ailments. Families need access to healthy produce.

The primary cause of food deserts is the scanty selection of grocery stores. Primarily in Greensboro, there is Harris Teeter, Lowes Foods, Whole Foods, Food Lion, Walmart and Aldi. Some of these grocery stories are pricier than others. Those who live in poverty cannot afford to shop at a Whole Foods or Harris Teeter, where the food is supposed to be of better quality. One has to have a certain prestige of socioeconomic status to experience a luxury grocery store.

Stores like Walmart and Aldi are just as good, if not better. They have all the food a family could need with a reasonable price point. Being an average college student on a budget, Aldi is a godsend. They sell generic brand food that is both tasty and light on the wallet. Aldi, a German-born grocery store, is slowly expanding; there are currently ten in the Triad. The only problem is that they need locations spread throughout all regions of Greensboro to make them accessible for more residents.

To combat food deserts in the area, initiatives throughout the Triad have been established.  The Renaissance Community Co-op, a newly founded food bank, is partnered with Cone Health Foundation, City of Greensboro, The Working World, Regenerative Finance, and other local organizations. The 10,000 square foot grocery store is stocked by food, toiletry, and monetary donations.

The Renaissance Community Co-op operates 12 hours per day, seven days a week. They have the usual sections that can be found in stores: frozen, dairy, produce, canned goods, and health and beauty. The food bank has been running since 2016 and is located in the Renaissance Shops at Phillips Avenue Plaza.

Students can get involved as well through volunteering opportunities. Food Recovery Network is a national non-profit organization that works to educate communities on food waste and supply the general public with healthy food. Food Recovery Network’s local chapter was founded in 2015 on the UNCG campus.

Student volunteers work with the UNCG cafeteria to recover food and donate it to inhabitants of Greensboro. To date, they have recovered over 4,000 pounds of food to distribute to the Salvation Army and Urban Ministry. While that is a great amount that has been recovered, there is still more work ahead to turn food deserts into a food oasis.

Food deserts are a prevalent issue that do not get as much concern as other local issues. This should not distract from the importance of reaching out and giving time, money, or supplies to help the cause. Volunteering is a fulfilling experience everyone should partake in. Dissolving the food gap is a community effort.

Next time you are at the grocery store, donate non-perishable items to some of the many Greensboro food banks. They are more than appreciative of anything you are willing and able to donate. When good is put in, good is given out.



Categories: Columns, Opinions

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