RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — VCU is hoping to make the city’s east end — where the life expectancy is alarmingly low — a healthier place to live.
The university and its medical center are building a new wellness center with a grocery store off Nine Mile Road near N. 25th Street.
“When I moved in this area, there was basically one grocery store,” said Christopher Rashad Green, who has lived in Richmond for nearly 25 years.
Green says growing up, residents had at least one place to access healthy food. But he says those options dried up about 10 years ago.
“On a regular basis, cooked chicken wings, fried food, snacks, sweets,” Green said of what he sees when going into stores in the area now. “We don’t have that (healthy) choice and that’s the down side.”
Karen Wells with the American Heart Association has been working to get a grocery store in the area. She says the numbers show not having one is affecting the community.
“Unfortunately in the east end, the life expectancy of the zipcodes here are disproportionately lower than in areas that are very close to this area,” she explained. “Lack of food access can contribute disproportionately to illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease.”
Work is now underway to try and reverse that trend. In addition to a new, independent grocery store at the corner of 25th and Nine Mile Road, VCU will also build a wellness center to help educate residents on preparing healthy foods.
Green said it a big step in the right direction.
“Not excited to the point that I know they’re going to be a savior for this community, there’s still going to be a lot of challenges, but at least we’re moving forward,” she said.
8News spoke with the lead investor in the grocery store. He said he’s hoping to have it open by Thanksgiving 2018.