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Supermarket closure in Cleveland neighborhood creates new food desert, leaves residents without adequate options

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 7:12 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - When Dave’s Supermarket closed its location in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood, the community was left with a major void and the city had its newest food desert; a lack of adequate grocery options in an already underserved part of town.

“I’ve seen the crumble and the depression hit. I’ve seen people change,” said Gesyciah Thompson, who reached out to the 19 Troubleshooters for help. “The only place we go is to the gas stations to get groceries, and most of that is junk food.”

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health has long been addressing food deserts and has produced a map showing the location of major supermarkets throughout the region.

Factoring in the closure of the Dave’s Supermarket, which was branded as a relocation by the company, there is approximately a two-mile radius surrounding East 40th Street and Community College Avenue where there is no longer a large grocery store.

“We need to be able to buy meat, produce and vegetables. We can’t keep living like this,” Thompson told 19 News.

Behind the scenes, there are groups working to end the crisis.

“People want access to healthy and affordable foods, it’s a basic need,” said Roger Sikes, who runs the Cuyahoga County Board of Health’s Creating Healthy Communities program.

The group works with residents, municipalities, grocery stores and other stakeholders to help secure funding and resources to bring new stores into communities that lack them.

They’re currently working with the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope, or NOAH, to bring a store into an underserved community in East Cleveland.

“There is definitely progress,” said Executive Director Trevelle Harp. “What they basically said to us was they’ll help implement a high quality grocery store in East Cleveland and build a policy based on that interaction.”

The work was slowed by COVID-19, but both Harp and Sikes believe they’re moving forward and it could become the model program for addressing food deserts.

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