YMCA starts Healthy Corner Store initiative to end hunger

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) The First Lady of the Commonwealth said nearly 1.7 million people live in a food desert, meaning they would have to travel a mile or more to get to the nearest grocery store to find fresh food.

Political leaders are teaming up with YMCA of the Roanoke Valley to start the Healthy Corner Store Initiative to battle food deserts.

The goal is work with corner stores to get healthy fruits and vegetables.

Nada Melki, who owns the corner store at Orange Avenue and 11th Street, knows the importance of eating healthy.

"I live healthy myself. I love fruits and vegetables and exercise everyday," said Melki.

She was one of the few who wanted to be a part of the new initiative.

"It was a good idea," Melki said.

Jackie Grant, vice president of the YMCA of the Roanoke Valley, said they started the initiative because they want to end food deserts in Roanoke.

Grant said they are in talks with farmers and others to make healthy foods available at corner markets.

"It's about us bringing the food into the communities that don't have access and it being affordable for families," Grant said.

First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe agrees the program could help mean healthier children in Roanoke.

"Corner stores are the only viable point of market and we need to make sure we can continue to look at ways we can bring more grocery stores in to our food deserts," McAuliffe said.

The new initiative started with delegate Sam Rasoul and he teamed up with the YMCA.

He grew up in corner stores and knows of their significance.

"Coming full circle we realize how important corner stores can be to end in trying to help alleviate the food deserts," Rasoul said.

The YMCA is hoping to have the program to start in Roanoke by spring.  

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