No solution in sight for Lynchburg food desert

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Downtown Lynchburg residents will not be getting a grocery store anytime soon.

A local group had been trying for years to make it a reality, but they called it quits this week, saying it’s just not possible.

“You can’t buy food you can’t buy deodorant,” said Sally Mock, a downtown Lynchburg resident. “It’s very difficult. I have poor vision, so I have to have a driver, and I have to pay someone to take me to get groceries.”

She lives in a food desert, an urban area where the nearest place to buy fresh, affordable groceries is more than a mile away.

“Well it’s a little inconvenient, living downtown,” said Main Street resident Dwayne Spearman. “If you want anything, you have to run over the bridge to madison heights or head down Rivermont to Kroger.”

In 2016, a group of residents formed Project Oasis to try to bring a brick and mortar grocery store to the food desert. Three and a half years later, their mission ended on Thursday.

“We came to a conclusion, as a group, that a grocery store in the downtown area probably isn’t viable,” said Jeff Smith, a co-founder of Project Oasis.

He says their studies showed the population density downtown is too low to support a grocery store, at least until the population grows or average incomes increase.

Still, residents like Spearman hold out hope for even a convenience store stocked with the basics.

“Eggs, bread, just staples,” he said. “It would be nice. It would be very convenient for those of us who live down here.”

Food deserts are all over the country, in urban and rural areas.

The United States Department of Agriculture has an interactive map where you can see information about food access in your area.

The map below shows food deserts in Lynchburg.

Explore food deserts across the United States using the map below (courtesy of the USDA).

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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