PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia State University recently premiered a documentary called Living In A Food Desert.
The documentary highlights a sad reality for thousands of people who have limited access to affordable and healthy food.
“Unfortunately, almost the entire city of Petersburg is in a food desert,” says Dr. Jewel Hairston, the Dean of Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture.
In a city with more than 30,000 people, many folks in Petersburg live in those so called food deserts.
“A lot of people around here they catch the bus and don’t have transportation, like the older people, so like I said, we are doing ok for right now, but we are waiting for it to get better,” says Robin Edmonds, a Petersburg resident.
The rates of chronic diseases in many of these communities are high. Experts say that’s directly correlated to poor food options.
“So if you are trying to make sure that your family is full, you may choose to buy an inexpensive box of macaroni and cheese that may be on the shelf or even candy,” says Dr. Hairston.
There are three grocery store chains in Petersburg; however, that’s miles away from some communities. City leaders say they’re trying hard to bring more options to the city.
“I think it is important for developers to not just automatically shut petersburg out, and to come to the city, see all of the great things that we have going on, the focus on revitalization,” says Jay Ell Alexander, the spokesperson for the city of Petersburg.
There’s currently a farmers market in the city and the local health district just received a federal grant to start growing food in the Harding Street neighborhood. the indoor facility opens in April, and it’s just another option to bring healthy foods into these neighborhoods. It’s important to note that there are many other communities in the state and country facing this problem.