RALEIGH – Corner stores have until Dec. 31 to apply for funding that is meant to provide healthier food options for those living in food deserts across North Carolina.
The Healthy Food Small Retailer Program, which is administered by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, was established in the 2016 state budget bill (HB 1030). The pilot program will reimburse participating stores for refrigeration, freezers and stocking equipment needed for healthier items.
“There are 349 food deserts across North Carolina, impacting about 1.5 million North Carolinians,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Corner stores and convenient stores are integral parts of their local communities, and can play an important role in bring healthy local foods to the neighborhoods they serve.”
For the first year of this program, participating stores must be located in the following eastern counties: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Franklin, Gates, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Tyrell, Wake, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Wilson and Vance.
Melissa Walter, program coordinator for the Healthy Food Small Retailer Program, said the pilot region was chosen to address the greater number of food deserts in the area. The region was also chosen to support areas impacted by recent flooding and in need of additional assistance.
In addition to being located in the outlined counties, stores applying for funding under HFSRP also must meet the following criteria:
— Accept or agree to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits
— Accept or agree to apply to accept Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits
— Have no more than 3,000 square feet of heated floor space
— Be in a USDA-designated food desert (online search available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/dataproducts/food-access-research-atlas/go-to-the-atlas.aspx)
Interested stores can request an application by contacting program coordinator Melissa Walter by phone at 919-707-3117 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.