When Greensboro’s Renaissance Community Co-Op opened in 2016, it was the area’s first since grocery store since 1998.
Last week the store, in largely Black and low-income East Greensboro, announced it is closing at the end of the month. Despite demonstrable need in the under-served, low income area the store simply didn’t maintain the sales strength to keep its doors open.
The store on Phillips Avenue is at the center of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls a food deserts – a low income area where at least 33 percent of the people are more than a mile away from a real grocery store or supermarket.
There are 24 food deserts in Guilford County – 17 in Greensboro and seven in High Point.
More than 35,000 people in Guilford County have poor access to healthful food, according to USDA statistics. More than 18,000 of those are low-income.
Guilford’s food deserts are mostly in well-known low-income areas: south of Kivett Drive in High Point, most of east Greensboro and a large rural area near the outskirts of McLeansville.
Concerned Citizens for Northeast Greensboro worked with the Greensboro-based Fund for Democratic Communities partnered and Durham community development lender Self-Help to get the store off the ground. Citizens raised more than $1.2 million and the project received grants of $250,000 from the city of Greensboro and $25,000 from Guilford County. The c0-op’s membership grew to more than 1,300. But in the end, sales weren’t enough to sustain it.
Roodline Volcy, president of the co-op’s board of directors, told the News & Record that over 16 years without a grocery store, people seemed to have developed other habits in terms of how they got their food.
“I’m just heartbroken over the whole thing,” said Greensboro City Councilwoman Goldie Wells, who represents the area.