Many North Carolinians live in neighborhoods where they can’t access healthy and affordable food.
In fact, North Carolina has more than 349 food deserts across 80 counties. A food desert is a low-income census tract where residents do not have access to a full-service grocery store within a 1-mile radius in urban settings or a 10-mile radius in rural settings. This means that 1.5 million North Carolina residents do not have access to the foods they need to live a healthy lifestyle.
Limited food access and food insecurity adversely impact diet and health. Those who live in these neighborhoods are more likely to suffer from obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some kinds of cancer, and other chronic conditions.
In 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated $250,000 to start the Healthy Corner Store Program (also called Healthy Food Small Retailer Program). The Department of Agriculture is working on the eastern part of the state to help small store owners bring healthy foods into their stores. While this is a great first step, the program needs additional funding to adequately address the needs of all North Carolina citizens across the state and provide sufficient technical assistance to the participating store owners. In 2017, we are working to secure $1 million in full funding for this program.
The Healthy Corner Store Initiative is an opportunity to strengthen small businesses, particularly food retail and agribusiness, in North Carolina. The equipment can help store owners expand their offerings and potentially help increase profits from selling healthy and fresh food. The benefits are two-fold when the healthy options come from local farmers.
 United States Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/download-the-data.aspx#.Uq1EG_RdVic