City of Savannah employees work to eliminate food deserts in the Hostess City

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – City of Savannah employees who worked on a team through the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative presented the findings of their research on how to increase access to healthy foods across Savannah at Tuesday’s city council work session.

“The lack of access to and the understand of the value of healthy foods persist as a problem for families and individuals living more than a mile from a grocery store, often in low wealth communities of color,” said Willie Mae Knight, Community Outreach Specialist at the City of Savannah.

Based off their research done in West Savannah, they came up with two options for the city to further explore.

Placing healthy food options in vending machines at local convenience and corner stores and adding small grocery stores in predominantly residential areas.

“We have to provide both healthy foods because the city of Savannah could use eating a little more healthier, and providing food to places that just can’t get it and that gets back to so much of our presentation is people can’t get to the store. There’s no good options for healthy food for the people that live in certain areas of our city,” said Chip Colley, Real Estate Services with the city.

The healthy vending machine option is one the group initially didn’t believe would get much traction, but one that ended up having a 99% acceptance rate for those who weighed in on the matter.

“The vending machine allows for clean, fresh food at grocery store prices in smaller spaces. And the store owners like it because its all taken care of by somebody else, and it brings traffic into their stores and it gets good healthy food to people who need it,” explained Colley.

Mayor Van Johnson recommends that City Manager Jay Melder further explores the two options to help find a starting point for the project.

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