by: Alex Coleman
MEMPHIS, Tenn.– A dwindling number of grocery stores has created a food desert for people in North Memphis, but help could finally be on the way.
Councilwoman Michaelyn Easter-Thomas said a community development corporation called the Promise Development Corporation is in talks with city council to locate a grocery store in the community. Promise has worked on redevelopment projects in North Memphis for more than 20 years.
The grocery store would be located at 1993 Chelsea Avenue, at the corner of Chelsea and University.
A representative with Promise told city council members said they hope to have the store open by Oct. 2024.
City Council approved a resolution Tuesday to allocate $3 million in federal funding for Promise to open and manage the store.
“We all agreed that food deserts in Memphis needed to be eradicated,” Easter-Thomas said. “I’m excited to say that we are getting closer and closer to obtaining the land and finishing the architectural drawing of the plan.”
In North Memphis, many people face the growing problem of so-called food deserts when nearby grocery stores close and leave behind boarded-up buildings.
The USDA classifies a “food desert” as an area characterized by low income paired with little access to retail outlets selling healthy and affordable foods.
One woman who didn’t want to be identified said it’s a major worry for her and her family.
“They closed down the Save-a-Lot. They closed down other venues for us to go to. There used to be a Kroger over here and they closed that down. We really don’t have a lot to choose from,” she said. “They need to get with the government and different grants and find out how can we get more help out here.”
At a Memphis City Council Budget Committee meeting, the North Memphis food desert problem got a lot of attention.
Some $3 million has been set aside for the project. Some council members like Councilman Jeff Warren wanted to know how the money would be spent.
“Where is the money going and how is it going to be spent and how do those two things relate,” he said.
Council members are seeking answers as a community hopes the city will make an investment to an end to the food desert in North Memphis.
“I will support this project. I think when we look at across our county and our state there’s a serious number of communities…I think over a million people live in food deserts,” said Councilman JB Smiley Jr.
“I’m very supportive of this project happening since day one. I understand the concern is the timing,” said Councilman Chase Carlisle.