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Food Deserts and TROSA Grocery

November 29, 2011

America’s usually pretty good about providing what people want and need. Even though our economy seems to have taken a dive from the top of the Grand Canyon down into the Colorado River, it’s still among the most robust economies the world has ever seen. But before we pat ourselves on the back, our system has its flaws, and not just the kind that caused this recession in the first place. One of these problems, unbelievably, is access to nutritious food. According to Feeding America, 18.2% of North Carolinians, including 27.3% of North Carolinian children, are “food insecure”–that is, they hold a “lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.”

The problem can be a lack of money, or a need to decide between paying food costs and paying other bills (such as medical fees). It can also be a lack of access to food. There are some places where nutritious food is less accessible and more expensive than unhealthy food. One such area–which are often referred to as “food deserts”–was the neighborhood around the corner of Angier Avenue and Driver Street in Durham. The nearest grocery store was almost two miles away, making it effectively inaccessible to those who didn’t have a car. It should be noted that most residents of this neighborhood rely on either public transportation or their own two feet to get around. This was the situation in the neighborhood around Angier and Driver for over 50 years.

Enter TROSA Grocery. Opening in the spring of 2010, it exists where other grocery stores have been unable or unwilling to do so, due to high crime or weak demand. The only reason it could get off the ground was because it was funded and run by people who were relatively unconcerned with the money. Because it is less concerned with profit as it is with providing a social benefit, TROSA can step in to get done what a normal business is unwilling (or unable) to do because of the slim profit margins. Indeed, even TROSA sees relatively slim profit margins, relying on donations to cover a (small) portion of its operating costs where its businesses fall short. However, its model has worked to this day, helping to fund TROSA’s program while providing fresh food to residents of the neighborhood by Angier Avenue and Driver Street.

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