Residents of Atlanta’s Bankhead neighborhood are encountering a healthy new look at a hub of their community: the local supermarket.
A low-income community located west of downtown, Bankhead is famous as the neighborhood where hip-hop artists such as T.I. and the Shop Boyz grew up. But it also is home to a problem familiar to roughly 500,000 Atlanta residents and more than 25 million Americans: Bankhead is a food desert.
For Bankhead residents, finding fresh, nutritious and affordable food is a challenge, as the community lacks grocery stores and other food retail outlets. That has ramifications not only for what people can buy and eat, but for their health as well.
But Sam Goswami is building an oasis in the middle of Bankhead.
Goswami is the owner of Super Giant, the only supermarket within a four-mile radius of the neighborhood. With help from partners such as the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Goswami has been working hard to expand the most nutritious offerings in his store.
“I’m remodeling my whole store right now,” he explains.
First came new produce cases to highlight the locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables he is adding to his offerings. Then came renovations to the meat and frozen food departments; the dairy cases are next.
“I’m getting very positive feedback from the customers,” Goswami says. “Hopefully we can do more and more.”
He has the space to do that. “I have another big building right next to my store,” Goswami explains, a vacant former Kmart he purchased after buying Super Giant. He’s planning on turning that into a community center. The goal is eventually to open a health clinic in partnership with Emory University, as well as to add a small community kitchen.
“Then we can bring all the community together and teach them about healthy food,” Goswami says. “The customer comes in, they can do their shopping, go to the clinic, everything will be in one place … a healthy hub for the neighborhood.”
Goswami says “top-notch chefs from restaurants around Atlanta” will be invited to teach cooking classes, helping customers learn how to choose and prepare fruits and vegetables. And a program still in the early stages of development would offer a perk to customers who must shop with food stamps: an extra $10 for every $10 they spend on produce.
In the meantime, a variety of healthy-living initiatives is moving forward. One of his plans has already flowered this year: a community garden attached to the store. “It’s in my parking lot!” Goswami says proudly.
Emory students are in charge of the plots, with help from Super Giant employees and local residents. The first plantings went in in February and March, and now they are starting to pick cabbage, spinach, collard greens, and okra, among other vegetables. On May 3, Super Giant celebrated the first harvest and its remodeling with a cookout outside the store.
“Hopefully we can improve the health and welfare of the neighborhood,” Goswami says.
Donna Brutkoski drafted this report.
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