Residents and City of Raleigh officials are examining food access problems in southeast Raleigh before the closing of two Kroger stores next month.
More than 100 people attended a community meeting Monday evening at Martin Street Baptist Church to express their disappointment in Kroger's decision to close and to start looking for solutions.
The Ohio-based company announced that it would close its stores on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and New Bern Avenue in mid-January because they had ceased being profitable.
City leaders and residents, however, say the closings will greatly affect the community's ease of access to fresh produce and healthy food, especially for people on fixed incomes and with limited transportation.
"I think everyone is speaking very passionately about how they feel about Kroger leaving one way of another, but the fact remains this is a food desert," said Cathey Ector. "We really, really need to have a viable grocery store in order to meet the needs of citizens in this area."
Southeast Raleigh is recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a "food desert," an urban low-income area where the poverty rate is at least 20 percent and at least 33 percent of residents have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.
Residents at Monday's meeting said they hope to fill the void left by Kroger.
"I don't think we need to rely solely on government to do it," Ector said. "I think it's a whole collaboration of residents, organizations, nonprofits that can help replace the Kroger."
In addition to groceries, both Kroger stores have pharmacies inside. The one on Martin Luther King Boulevard also has a bank, and behind it are two assisted living facilities.
Community organizer Corey Branch says the closings will impact those residents most.
"They're saying, 'I'm losing a pharmacy. I'm losing what's close to my house,'" he said. "So they have to transfer all of their prescriptions to a different pharmacy, which also impacts their budget from maybe having to catch a cab or bus."
No Kroger representatives attended the meeting.
A map of major grocery stores in Raleigh and southeast Raleigh (shaded region). Stores include Kroger, Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Walmart Supercenter, Target, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Trader Joe's and Lowes Foods.
View Raleigh Grocery Stores in a larger map