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Fighting Laney Walker’s food desert: When will that area get more options?

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 8:05 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - For years we’ve covered the ongoing conversations about revitalizing South Augusta and the Laney Walker neighborhood. We’ve also talked about the lack of resources when it comes to affordable, fresh food. Now two grocery stores are going up in South Augusta but they’re still miles from Laney Walker. So when will that area get more options?

The Laney Walker farmers market is really the only chance the community there gets to buy fresh food. But this market is only open to the community once a month so leaders know it’s only a temporary solution to a major food desert problem.

When the Kroger on 15th street shut its doors in 2017 it left a hole in the community larger than it’s empty parking lot.

“You see the food access issues that we have in Augusta. We’re known as the garden city so where are the gardens?” said Rebecca Van Loenen, Augusta Locally Grown.

A food desert with nowhere but the dollar store to get nutrition. So groups like Augusta Locally Grown and the American Heart Association put on a farmers market once a month for people to buy fresh produce. But once a month isn’t enough.

“We want long-term solutions and policy changes so that we have those sustainable programmings for individuals to get food,” said Kayla Kranenberg, American Heart Association.

When the community hub of Augusta opens off Fenwick Street next spring Augusta Locally Grown plans to have a farmers market operate year-round there. Still, it’s not a true grocery store.

“This is my community. Yes, I live on the outskirts but this matters to me,” said Loenen.

Augusta Commission recently voted to zone this property on Peach Orchard Road for a new Aldi. While it’ll help it’s five miles away from the Laney Walker area.

“If you think about what you’re getting at a normal grocery store in a week and how you could carry that on a bus or walk back with that,” said Kranenberg.

The MCG Foundation made a commitment to the community to open a new grocery store near the location of the old Kroger. Still no plans are set in stone.

“We’re probably thinking that a grocery store may be a year or two down the road before we can actually break ground on one,” said Ian Mercier, MCG Foundation.

What we do know about that possible grocery store is that the MCG Foundation wants it to be on the side of 15th street where the hospitals are. They say they’re working on building some new office buildings for the university at the site of the old Kroger first.

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