WILMINGTON—After a recent fire on Greenfield Street destroyed the Everybody’s Supermarket IGA store, the surrounding neighborhood is in serious need of access to food. Could a simple city permit help alleviate the problem?
What’s a food desert? Find out with our three-part series.
The Village Plaza also housed a barber shop, a restaurant, a beauty supply store, and a church–but the loss of the Everybody’s threatens to have the most lasting impact, reducing the neighborhood’s access to things like fresh and nutritious food. It’s a phenomenon known as a “food desert,” and it can have a depressing ripple effect on a whole area.
It’s not yet known if the owners of Everybody’s will rebuild or if the property owner will continue to lease the property. However, even the best case scenario–in terms of rebuilding the grocery store–will take months and likely years; the charred remains of the entire mall will have to be demolished and a new structure rebuilt. In the meantime, the area goes without easy access to food.
There is at least one possible solution: a pop-up grocery store.
A pop-up grocery store
According to Wilmington’s zoning department, a temporary permit could be obtained to allow a farmer’s market to operate for 60 days. City Spokesman Dylan Lee said those 60 days would only apply to days the market was in operation.
In other words, a market that was open three days a week would be able to run for 20 weeks on the temporary permit.
It’s not the same as a full-service grocery store, but it’s a start. That’s the thinking at the Cape Fear Food Council. According to Jordyn Appel, the community food access coordinator for Feast Down East, the Cape Fear Food Council (CFCC) has been “brainstorming” ideas, including “a weekly pop-up grocer market, daily mini-grocery,” as well as a resource guide with bus routes to food stores, food pantries and programs, summer feeding sites, and other tools to help residents combat the “food desert.”
Steve McCrossan, executive director of Nourish NC, is also a member of CFFC. McCrossan said that while Nourish NC’s mission focuses on children’s access to food, that the organization took a personal interest in the loss of Everybody’s IGA.
“We’re on Greenfield, so that’s our neighborhood,” McCrossan said. “It’s not our mission, but at the same time we feel an obligation to see something get done.”
McCrossan’s suggestion in early discussions has been a pop-up grocery.
“There’s any number of mobile or pop-up grocery options that could help alleviate the situation,” McCrossan said. “We’ve been in the community, and all they have is a Dollar General right now. We asked, ‘is this needed?’ The overwhelming answer was, ‘yes.’ The problem is, who is gonna own it, and I mean that both literally and figuratively.”
McCrossan pointed out that someone “literally” would have to own a pop-up grocery.
“Who’s gonna own it, who’s gonna to take EBT cards, who’s gonna file paperwork, whose books is this gonna be on,” McCrossan said.
A more complicated issue over the long term is “figurative” ownership, that is, getting the community involved instead of simply having an outside agency come in and set up a market, McCrossan said.
Several other organizations have also expressed interest in assisting, including Tidal Creek Co-Op. The co-operative currently hosts its own market featuring sales directly from farmers – that is, without middlemen – on Saturdays. Spokeswoman Kaitlin Franklin said the co-op was open “to help any way we can.”
Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at firstname.lastname@example.org, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001