ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany is one of only eight cities in the nation called a "Community of Opportunity."
Along with the designation is a 3.9 million dollar grant, awarded in January 2015, and a widespread effort to improve access to healthy, fresh food for people in the poorest neighborhoods, with help from groups across the nation.
Administered by The University of Georgia Extension Agency in Dougherty County, a volunteer steering committee will begin hosting public forums this fall to talk about what the initiative offers neighborhoods and rural areas with low to no access to locally grown food.
James Morgan, the County's Extension Agent and Coordinator, says research funded by the grant describes East and South Albany as a "Food Desert."
Large pockets of South and Easy Albany, as well as downtown Albany, are mostly dry of easy access to juicy, fresh foods, vital to good health.
Morgan says, "We are looking to bring fresh produce to those areas there."
There are very few nearby supermarkets, a point, along with noting multiple fast-food restaurants, that researchers from a university in New York observed.
Now, the former Winn-Dixie on Radium Springs Road is slated to become a farmers market, known as a "Food Hub" by Morgan.
The Tift Park Farmer's Market downtown on Saturdays is another effort volunteer committee members say is improving food access.
Daaiyah Salaam, a Research Analyst with Albany Technical College and a volunteer member of the Community of Opportunity Steering Committee says, "People are interested (in the local food movement) and not just one sector. We are seeing a whole intersection of people who want to live longer and who want to live healthier and who want to provide healthy nutritious food for their families."
Angie Barber, the Director of Phoebe Putney Hospital's Network of Trust and another volunteer member of the Steering Committee says the early data was vital to spurring on the local food movement, "Knowing this opened the doors for more gardens, more farmers markets, like our Tift Market, to expand what we are doing to all sides of the city."