Commission to address downtown “food desert”


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – For decades, those downtown could come here, off 15th Street, to do their grocery shopping. But now this national chain is gone more than two and a half years now. Activists are pleading with the city to do something to end this downtown food desert.

Josephine Harris used to grocery shop on 15th street. Now she says she has to go to North Augusta or the Gordon Highway.

“No I don’t like it. But what am I going to do about it? Nobody seems to be interested in us down in this area,” said Harris

But Doctor Von Pouncey is going before Augusta Commissioners to urge them to get busy and locate a grocery store in the downtown-inner city area.

“We need to come together and not make this about ‘your fault your fault or your fault’, we need to come together and fix it,” Pouncey said.

City leaders say grocery stores need customers, and point to the redevelopment in the Laney Walker area and the new Beacon Station apartments for bringing in more people with higher incomes to the area.

“You can’t start from grocery store down, you have to start from the development and neighborhoods up and I think we are on our way,” said Hawthorne Welcher, Housing and Development Director.

Commissioners also say help is on the way to bring more choices for shoppers in the area.

“A Family Dollar Market in that area at 12th and Martin Luther King Boulevard. That deal is being worked out now, so that will address some of the issues we have,” say Commissioner Dennis Williams.

“Our answer to them is go to the general stores and spend twice as much don’t get any healthy fruit or vegetables,” said Pouncey.

Pouncey telling Commissioners what’s needed is a national or regional grocery store for the area, city leaders agree to set up meetings with city officials already at work on the food desert issue.

“I’m excited and energized by that. Let’s just do this, let’s commit to this, let’s make something happen,” Pouncey said.

Mayor Davis appointed Commissioners Marion Williams along with Commissioner Fennoy and Mayor Pro-Tem Frantom to take part in these discussions. Now we’ll see if these talks will lead to a new grocery store downtown.

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