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Young woman shopping at a grocery store

Food deserts commonly impact Black and other communities of color, limiting access to fresh produce. Source: ljubaphoto / Getty

Food deserts have disproportionately impacted communities of color. Black business owners are using entrepreneurship as an avenue to address food deserts and the systemic inequities surrounding accessibility to food. Robert Thomas founded Houston’s first Black-owned grocery store, District Market Green Grocer, to eradicate food insecurity.

Research conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the USDA revealed that 54 million Americans live in food-insecure households, and 23.5 million people reside in food deserts. In Houston, the food insecurity rate sits at 16.6 percent, with more than 500,000 residents living in areas where there is limited access to nutritious and affordable food options. The issue of food insecurity and food deserts—which was exacerbated by the pandemic—prompted Thomas to create District Market Green Grocer.

The 4,000-square-foot market—located at 3337 Cypress Creek Pkwy—used to house a nightclub that Thomas owned. After the club shuttered due to the pandemic, he decided to transform the space into a grocery store to address the needs of residents in the local community. The store, which opened its doors in November 2021, contains locally sourced and international healthy food options and other items from Black-owned businesses.

Thomas says his business’ mission is rooted in empowering the Black community by ensuring access to affordable, nutritious foods and amplifying the creations of Black entrepreneurs by stocking the shelves with their products.

“We are the number one consumer. To me, that means we consume more than we actually manufacture and make. I feel like it’s a wonderful opportunity for the Black culture to step up and do our part in today’s society,” he told KPRC 2 Houston. “I have people that come in and pray that I’ll be successful. People come and buy and support. The community is embracing it.” He plans to open more stores in areas affected by food deserts.

Another entrepreneur using her business to address food insecurity in her local community is Elizabeth Abunaw, who founded Forty Acres Fresh Market in Chicago.

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