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Progress continues on community-owned grocery store in Winston-Salem

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- North Carolina has the eighth highest rate of food insecurity in the nation. Almost 630,000 households in the state don't have enough to eat.

However, there’s been a push to eliminate food deserts in Winston-Salem.

“We can see people walking up and down the hill and so forth and they have to go a distance to get food so why not have a food market here?” said Rev. Gary Williams, co-founder of SHARE Cooperative of Winston-Salem.

It's a vision both Williams and Rev. Willard Bass have been trying to make a reality for two years.

“These maps have been on the wall since the beginning of the year and what it does is act as a reminder for us of places where there are food deserts in our community,” said Bass, as he looked around the office building.

Almost every corner of the two’s office covered, pointing out areas where there's no store for people on fixed incomes to shop.

“Two years ago, we knew that were 10 food deserts and now we had some interns that did some work at Wake Forest. There's 20, about 20 food deserts,” Bass said.

The Winston-Salem City Council is trying to help the project move along, funding a study that showed how big the need is, the best location and the chances of the stores success.

That's what led Bass and Williams to the West Salem Shopping Center and the place they hope to be the future site of SHARE Cooperative of Winston-Salem.

“So, we are now on the cusp of phase three. Phase three will actually be the implementation, but we can't go into implementation until we are certain that we have the community backing, that people want a food store down here and that they are willing to invest,” Williams said.

As they build their blueprint they are looking to other community-owned stores for ideas.

For instance, the Renaissance Community Co-Op in east Greensboro. More than a year after it opened workers have recently reset the store to create more shelf space and make it more attractive to shoppers.

“Durham [Co-Op Market] and Renaissance, they have been able to share the problems, the potential pitfalls or so forth so we don't make the same mistakes. So, we've learned from them,” Williams said.

“So, it's been a very interesting, exciting, challenging journey,” Bass said.

Saturday, Dec. 16, from 2 to 5 p.m. SHARE Co-Op will have an open house at its office on Peters Creek Parkway located on the side of the West Salem Shopping Center.

The goal is to open the store by the fall of next year.​