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New grant to bring fresh food options to Cleveland neighborhoods without grocery stores

Fresh vegetables distributed at a free produce distribution by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
Abbey Marshall
Ideastream Public Media
Fresh vegetables distributed at a free produce distribution by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

A new grant will bring healthy and accessible food options to Cleveland’s Central and Kinsman neighborhoods, parts of the city that have been food deserts since the last grocery store closed in 2019.

Joining a cohort of 13 U.S. cities, Cleveland will receive a $300,000 grant as part of the BUILD Health Challenge. Local organizations have also contributed to bring the total to nearly $1 million, according to Public Health Director David Margolius.

Like other predominantly Black neighborhoods in the city, Central and Kinsman residents must either leave their neighborhoods to get groceries, which proves challenging for more than half of Central’s population that does not own a car, or buy food from dollar stores. Margolius says those chains are “predatory” on poor neighborhoods.

“Chains like Family Dollar ship in outside food that’s usually really unhealthy and cheap to make,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is more affordable, and those compete with grocery stores and local growers and can put them out of business.”

After Dave’s Market left the area four years ago, no other full-service grocer moved in. Margolius defines the problem as food apartheid: a segregational system between areas of the city with access to an abundance of nutritious food and other neighborhoods left out due to systemic oppression.

“Food banks have kind of been a band aid for folks, an important band aid, to stop the bleeding and solve hunger,” Margolius said. “But bigger picture, what we need to solve for is ending food apartheid, which are these systems of oppression that have taken away the opportunity for people in Cleveland — particularly Black Clevelanders — to have access to locally grown and sold food.”

The program, which will span three years, will give organizers the opportunity to realize a vision of equitable and accessible local food through grocery store co-ops, a community garden network and a food jobs program.

Cleveland’s project, titled “Race, Food and Justice: Resident-led change to support a sustainable local food system,” will be led by the community group, Environmental Health Watch, in partnership with the city’s Department of Public Health and other local organizations.

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.