Jonesboro residents hope new grocery stores fill food deserts

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Two new Walmart Neighborhood Markets may soon open their doors in Jonesboro.

The city's Metropolitan Area Planning Commission will review two site plans to build them. One site is on the corner of Harrisburg Rd. and Parker Rd. The other is in the Creek Place Commercial Subdivision at Larkwood Dr. and Forest Home Rd.

Some Jonesboro residents said the city should build one of the markets closer to the old Save-A-Lot location in downtown Jonesboro.

The USDA classifies this area as a 'food desert.' This means low income families have low access to supermarkets within a ten-mile radius.

Residents said the Save-A-Lot's closure made this food desert even worse. The closest grocery store is now Hay's on Gee St.

"We really miss that because a lot of people in this area, they don't have cars and they're lower to middle income," Jonesboro resident Anthony Dale Murray said.

Murray and many of his neighbors rely on walking or riding the bus to eat. Murray said that was doable when the Save-A-Lot was open.

"They could walk and get good deals on groceries," Murray said. "Where it's easier to grab a bag of dollar potato chips, they could grab apples, bananas, things like that so it helped the whole community because a healthier community makes it a better place to live."

But now that the store closed, Murray said residents rely more on close gas stations for food and occasionally make the trek to a real grocery store.

"It's a hardship on them," Murray said. "I seem them doing it, but they're dragging their baskets."

"There are a lot of people who walk and take the bus so that would be difficult for them if they can't," Jonesboro resident Elizabeth Duryea said.

Duryea has a car so grocery shopping is not a problem for her.

"If I didn't have a car, I would rely on other people who did have a car, which could be problematic, or try to take the bus," Duryea said.

Duryea said the bus could also be problematic. The buses stop running at about 6:20 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"That could be a problem if you work during the day," Duryea said.

However, Duryea said she would not call the area a "food desert."

"It's just a matter of being able to get there and afford what they offer," Duryea said.

But these are the two things Murray said are difficult to do right now.

"We need a decent little food store here that carries vegetables, cost cutter things that we can afford," Duryea said. "Then you stretch your meals and that way it takes pressure off the food banks. It could be a positive all the way around."

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