WEST GARFIELD PARK — A West Side small business owner is giving away hundreds of pounds of fresh produce Friday after West Garfield Park’s only grocery store was closed by health inspectors.
The Save A Lot at 420 S. Pulaski Road was the last grocery store remaining in West Garfield Park until its license was halted Feb. 8. The temporary closure has worsened an already dire lack of food access in a neighborhood known to be a food desert.
The supermarket was frequented by Deshawn Nelson, a nearby resident and founder of Mr. Nelson’s Movers. To provide some relief to families who relied on the store, Nelson and mentor Isaiah Brooks partnered with Imperfect Foods to give away fresh fruits and vegetables to families in the area.
“We know how it is not to have transportation to get to another place. Now it’s closed and that was the last grocery store in the neighborhood. It’s definitely going to be a food desert for folks who don’t have cars to get fresh vegetables,” Nelson said.
Imperfect Foods donated two large pallets of fresh produce for the giveaway. The food will be enough for about 100 people, Nelson said.
Nelson was previously recognized as an emerging leader on the West Side in 2021 by Lawndale Christian Legal Center. The legal aid group awarded Nelson for his achievements in supporting the community and starting his own business despite having trouble with the law as a youth.
Nelson launched his moving company with a single truck in 2020. In less than two years, he’s grown his business to three trucks and four employees. Half of Nelson’s employees were once incarcerated; as his company grows, he wants to continue to prioritize those who need a second chance, he said.
The closure of Save A Lot is a serious issue since there are no other grocery stores in the immediate area. The nearest is a Freshway Market at 3240 W. Roosevelt Road — about 1.5 miles from the Save A Lot.
West Garfield Park residents’ average life expectancy is 16 years shorter than people living Downtown, according to a 2015 Virginia Commonwealth University report. The disparity isn’t only due to shortcomings in clinical health care; social conditions like the lack of fresh food are major drivers of the so-called “death gap,” the study found.
“It’s important to have fresh vegetables. It’s definitely going to be a food desert for folks who don’t have cars to get fresh vegetables,” Nelson said.
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