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Fight continues for improving access to healthy food in Talbot County

Published: Apr. 2, 2022 at 7:22 PM EDT
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TALBOTTON, Ga. (WTVM) - In Talbot County, the fight for access to fresh food and nutrition continues after nearly two decades.

Earlier this year, a local non-profit, Frank and Olive S Marketplace, submitted a grant to fund what what would be the one and only full-scale grocery store in the town.

News Leader 9 talked with the people of Talbotton and they say living in a food desert is expensive and inconvenient. They say they can no longer drive dozens of miles to get fresh produce.

Jane Lockhart, founder of Frank and Olive S. Marketplace, says she received feedback from the USDA grant distributor, but the funds were neither granted nor denied.

Access to fresh produce and meats in the small rural town of Talbot County is a luxury these days.

“Since the market closed down there ain’t nowhere to get none, except the Dollar General have a little stuff,” said Joe Kimbrough, Talbot County resident. “And I go get a little stuff and set up down here.”

Since retiring, Kimbrough says he drives 160 miles out of town to get groceries for himself and fresh produce to sell to the people back in town.

Other than Kimbrough’s fresh produce pop up shop, Dollar General is the only other place that sells a limited amount of fresh fruits, veggies and meat.

“I have to go to Manchester, Waverly Hall, Columbus or Thomason to get food myself,” Kimbrough explained.

Lockhart says she developed a love for Talbotton as a child, spending many summers there with her grandparents. She is trying to change that by opening a local full-scale grocery store.

“Simply because people have been, in this area, without a grocery store for almost 18 years,” Lockhart recalled.

Dr. Kimberly Carr, a community resource and assessment specialist, says limited access to healthy food choices causes health disparities in small communities.

“You see a lot more chronic diseases like obesity, cardiovascular diseases, heart disease diabetes and those sort because a lot of those are diet sensitive,” said Dr. Carr.

Lockhart submitted a technical assistance application for grant from a Philadelphia organization called The Reinvestment Fund in February to get resources for the new store. But instead of approval, Lockhart says the grant distributors requested more information, leaving her to answer questions about funding and long-term success at a council meeting held on Friday.

“Will the food be enough to support the grocery store? How are you going to supplement that?,” Lockhart said.

Though many details still need ironing out, Lockhart says they plan to build the grocery store on this busy road, improving health and benefitting the economy.

“I am excited about having a grocery store. In my group it’s something we talk about having all the time.”

Lockhart will hold two more meetings at future dates and collect signatures from people in the community.

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