Northside Killeen residents demand closer grocery store

Emani Payne reports.

Northside Killeen residents want closer grocery store

KILLEEN - Convenience stores with unhealthy food options is what some Killeen residents say is becoming the norm in the area and they're not happy about it. People living on the northside of Killeen say they often have to buy junk food at corner stores because they don't have a quality grocery store on their side of town, something they hope will be changing soon.

Sara Vinson says her retired parents have lived on the north side of Killeen for more than 20 years now and have never had a quality neighborhood grocery store. They're closest options include a gas station, corner store and dollar general, making getting needed produce in a timely and affordable manner challenging.

"We're talking about the long tern impacts of not having access to fresh fruit, fresh produce, fresher meats and affordability" says Vinson.

According to the USDA the north side of Killeen is considered a food desert, meaning access to transportation and fresh and affordable food options is limited. There are three areas in the city alone that fall under this category and several others scattered throughout Central Texas.

"About 163 households don't have a vehicle and are more than a half mile from the supermarket, and if you don't have a vehicle and can't get to the grocery store it makes it harder to get to the store more often or to just shop around and find the best prices" says USDA Economist Michele Per Ploge. 

Vinson says the grocery store across town is out dated so her parents commute about 15 minutes away to the Harker Heights HEB to find what they need.

"The only grocery store that's currently here unfortunately it's lesser quality, they don't have a pharmacy and there's a little price gouging going on because they know they're the only game in town right now. Sometimes my parents will go a day or two without their prescriptions and gas wise it's a hard ship on them, the older they get the more it's becoming a bigger strain on them" says Vinson. 

Vinson's mother says the commute to the grocery store is especially difficult around the holidays.

"It's 20 minutes up there and 20 minutes back and at 5 o clock forget it don't even go through Killeen because the traffic is bad, especially during the holidays when we get ready for Thanksgiving or Christmas we need the turkey and the ham and all that expensive stuff to be fresh" says 20 year Killeen resident Adela Sanchez.

Another north side resident says the last thing he wants to do after a full day of work is sit in traffic trying to get to a grocery store, after 20 years of dealing with this he hopes a closer option is in the works.

"It's just incredible, sometimes you don't even want to go because of the traffic and it creates so many problems and accidents so one over here would be super super convenient" says 20 year Killeen resident Jose Rodriguez.

The temptation of seeking out the nearby unhealthier options can lead to long term problems including obesity and diabetes. John Crutchfield with Killeen's Chamber of Commerce says he's well aware of the need and that the city is currently talking with a developer about potentially bringing a grocery store and several other businesses to the north side soon.

"It would be a good thing and certainly a do-able thing. As i mentioned we have a prospect for that who will resolve that concern if we're able to get that deal finalized" says Crutchfield. 

Crutchfield went on to say that they don't yet have a timeline of when or if that grocery store deal will be finalized because it's a lengthy and very complicated process, but he says that they are about 95 percent of the way through the discussion part of the possible deal with that potential developer. 

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