Community food committee to explore food sources

Published 5:36 pm Saturday, February 6, 2016

A community organization in Aurora is making progress on finding sources of food to offset the loss of its grocery store last year.

People for a Better Aurora/Richland Township, a community organization made up of residents, formed a food committee in December to spearhead an initiative to find sources of fresh food for those in the area, according to Eve Hemby, community organizer. Residents suffered the loss of the town’s only grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, in April 2015 and since, the committee and members of the Aurora Board of Commissioners, at least one of whom serves on the committee, have been diligently working to secure ways to offset the lack of fresh meat and produce available to residents.

The committee has reached out to several grocery store chains and received at least one positive response from a company that expressed interest and willingness to meet with the community, Hemby said.

Martyn Johnson, Beaufort County Economic Development director, has been asked to partner with the town and help the committee in the process, Hemby said. Johnson has expressed interest and support in working with the town to find ways to attract parties that could meet the need of providing food sources for its residents.

“We are behind the initiative, and we hope to be able to provide whatever assistance we can that’s necessary, which will take the form of collecting data for the committee from various sources we have and also assisting them in applying for grants to develop or rehabilitate sources as necessary,” Johnson said. “That is partly what the committee is trying to find out. It’s necessary to collect data on the need in Aurora and then present that to the appropriate parties that maybe could fulfill that need.”

Aurora Commissioner W.C. Boyd Jr. said he and others in the town did research on the viability of reaching out to Wal-Mart to bring a Wal-Mart Express to the area but later received news of the company closing several of its Express locations in the region. However, Boyd is hopeful that a solution will come from the community uniting together and brainstorming ways to attract a grocery store to the town, he said.

“I’m going to continue to talk and work with whoever comes forth to help with a game plan,” Boyd said. “That’s what this meeting is all about on Monday night.”

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Monday at the Aurora Community Watch building and is open to the public.

The committee is not only working to bring a grocery store to the area, but it also is heading an effort to strengthen other means of getting food in the meantime such as food closets run by local churches. Potash Corp-Aurora recently donated a significant amount of money to the Aurora-Richlands Chamber of Commerce to renovate a building to accommodate a food pantry. For the pantry to be successful, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization would have to step up and take the reigns on its operation. A nonprofit must run the pantry in order to qualify for food distribution benefits from the Food Bank of the Albemarle, which sources food out to food pantries in the region, including Eagles Wings, which sends a mobile food pantry to the Aurora area every fourth Saturday of the month.

“There’s a definite need for people to have access to good food, as well as an issue with obesity in the county that we need to address through good food and exercise,” Johnson said.

Aurora Community Watch building is located at the corner of Fourth and Pearl streets, next to the Aurora Public Works office.