In the Northside community, getting groceries and household items can be a struggle when there is not a grocery store conveniently located. New Hanover Regional Medical Center and the Blue Ribbon Commission are looking to change that. (Port City Daily photo FILE PHOTO)

In the Northside community, getting groceries and household items can be a struggle when there is not a grocery store conveniently located. New Hanover Regional Medical Center and the Blue Ribbon Commission are looking to change that. (Port City Daily photo FILE PHOTO)

New Hanover Regional Medical Center Partners with the Community to Resolve Local Food Deserts
Wilmington, NC

New Hanover Regional Medical Center has partnered with the Blue Ribbon Commission to better understand and address the needs of Northside community residents.

One of these needs is the Northside community’s lack of convenient access to affordable fresh food. The USDA defines a food desert as a census tract—or neighborhood—that is low-income and low-access.

  • A low-access census tract has at least 500 people in the area living one mile from a grocery store for urban areas.
  • A low-income census tract has either 20 percent or more of the population living in poverty or their median family income is less than 80 percent of the median income for their area.

One of the six food deserts in New Hanover County is located in the Northside community.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center is hosting a kick-off meeting with community partners this spring to try and figure out what a Northside community food source would look like and where it will be located.

“The primary reason we are is doing this is because we’re seeking to address social determinants of public health,” Scott Whisnant, NHRMC Administrator of Community Relations said. “We’re trying to address where some of these behaviors start and how we can mitigate them.”

Meeting attendees will include representatives from NHRMC, Tidal Creek Co-op, Cape Fear Food Bank, Cape Fear Council of Governments, University of North Carolina Wilmington, New Hanover County government, Nourish NC, Feast Down East, the City of Wilmington and local farmers.

According to Whisnant, one of the tentative solutions to address the Northside’s food desert crisis is the Virgo Middle School that UNCW is converting into a lab school.

“Virgo has offered a community-oriented space that could be converted into a food mart to serve both Virgo families and the broader community,” Whisnant said.

Whisnant stressed that the Northside community residents are the primary driver for progress moving forward.

“This meeting is the first step in what should be a long process, a process that will be owned, operated and driven by the Northside community and the people who live there,” Whisnant said. “The rest of us are attending because we may have input on how to bring about this project or how we can make it easier for an entrepreneur to come forward with a sustainable, successful product.”