- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - While major food retailers announced a big push in 2011 to open or expand grocery or convenience stores in and around neighborhoods with no supermarkets, just one of the six new supermarkets in West Virginia landed in areas that most need access to fresh food, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal food stamp data.

As part of Michelle Obama’s health eating initiative, a handful of companies promised 1,500 such stores by 2016, a goal on which the group is far behind.

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 many areas of West Virginia, food pantries are stepping in to resolve “the crisis of disappearing grocery stores,” said Josh Lohnes, associate director of West Virginia University’s WV FOODLINK project.

“It may be easier for someone to drive to their local church that gets chicken quarters than to drive 30 miles to their closet Wal-Mart,” said Lohnes, whose group has been researching food access in the state.

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

CENSUS TRACTS

- Total census tracts in West Virginia: 484

- Census tracts that qualify as food deserts: 41 (8.5 percent)

STORES OPENED BY LARGE GROCERY CHAINS STATEWIDE

6 stores:

- Aldi: 2 in Hurricane and Martinsburg

- Kroger: 1 in Hinton

- IGA: 1 in Union

- Save-a-Lot: 1 in Clarksburg

- Food Lion: 1 Falling Waters

STORES OPENED IN FOOD DESERTS:

1 store:

- Kroger in Hinton

___

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

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