New Hanover Community Endowment Feeds Wilmington Food Desert With $6.8M

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Feb 21, 2024
The New Hanover Community Endowment announced a $6.8 million investment in the Northside Food Cooperative, a startup grocery store, on Wednesday.

The Northside Food Cooperative serves Wilmington's Northside neighborhood, a long-standing food desert at 10th and Post Streets. The Food Cooperative applied for the investment as a part of the endowment's 2023 grant cycle but was not included in the $53 million funding round. This latest investment comes two months after the NHCE’s funding release in December. NHCE officials stated the application needed additional research before investment.

“This is the first step toward eradicating a 35-year-old food desert on Wilmington’s Northside,” Bill Cameron, chairman of the NHCE board, stated in Wednesday’s release. “We’re excited to invest in grassroots solutions like the Northside Food Cooperative and look forward to partnering with them and New Hanover County to bring a grocery store to the community.”

The additional due diligence required for the investment included meetings with Cierra Washington, project manager of Northside Food Cooperative, and her team, NHCE's director of communications Kevin Maurer told the Business Journal.

"The delay, in part, was because of the holidays and because of moving the other grants through," Maurer said, "so it was just an ongoing process that we had an intent to put it out with the rest of our investments but it ended up getting delayed until the new year."

Maurer said he hopes this will be the beginning of an ongoing investment into the Northside community.

The investment will consist of $2.03 million this year, $3.40 million next year and $1.35 million in 2026, according to the release.

Northside Food Cooperative’s vision is a small-format, full-line store selling primarily familiar groceries with added fresh produce and meat. The investment over the next three years will fund the construction and design of the store along with opening costs.

The project is currently in the planning and development phase, according to NHCE's release, with construction planned to start in 2025. The store is expected to open in 2026. 

In 2022, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners voted to invest in a grocery store in the Northside neighborhood as a part of its community-building plan.

“This is more than a grocery store,” said Lakesha McDay, NHCE's interim CEO and executive vice president of programs and operations. “This was a promise made to the community decades ago. It is very exciting to team up with New Hanover County and the Northside Food Cooperative to make it a reality.”

McDay has taken over the responsibilities of inaugural president and CEO William Buster after he resigned on Feb. 5.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct that Lakesha McDay's position is executive vice president of programs and operations.
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