- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Despite a pledge from major food retailers in 2011 to open or expand grocery or convenience stores in and around neighborhoods with no supermarkets, just 11 percent of the new supermarkets in Virginia arrived in areas that lack close access to fresh food, an Associated Press analysis of federal food stamp data has found.

As part of Michelle Obama’s health eating initiative, a group of companies promised to open or expand 1,500 grocery or convenience stores in and around neighborhoods with no supermarkets by 2016.

The AP found that the nation’s top 75 food retailers opened almost 10,300 stores in new locations from 2011 to the first quarter of 2015. Take away convenience stores and “dollar stores,” which generally don’t sell fresh fruits, vegetables or meat, and barely more than 250 supermarkets were in so-called food deserts, or neighborhoods without stores that offer fresh produce and meats, the AP found.

In Virginia, a task force on food deserts commissioned by the General Assembly issued several recommendations in 2014, including assessing mobile farmers markets in urban and rural areas; expanding grant opportunities to benefit community and urban gardens, mobile markets, community kitchens and food hubs; and exploring tax incentives and other avenues for local governments that enable small businesses to sell fresh and health foods in local markets.

Here’s a closer look at the situation in Virginia:

CENSUS TRACTS

- Total census tracts in Virginia: 1,907

- Census tracts that qualify as food deserts: 193 (10.1 percent)

STORES OPENED BY LARGE GROCERY CHAINS STATEWIDE

63 stores:

- Wal-Mart: 24

- The Fresh Market: 12

- Aldi: 7

- Harris Teeter 6

- Kroger: 6

- Target: 2

- Costco: 1

- Food Maxx: 1

- IGA: 1

- Save-a-Lot 1

- Trader Joes: 1

- Whole Foods Market: 1

STORES OPENED IN FOOD DESERTS

7 stores:

- Aldi: Waynesboro

- IGA: Wise

- The Fresh Market: Lynchburg

- Wal-Mart: Hampton

- Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market: Roanoke (2), Lynchburg

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Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, AP research

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