NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Having access to healthy fruits and vegetables is an issue facing millions of Americans, especially in certain areas of Nashville. It is considered a 'Food Desert,' where stores selling fresh foods and vegetables are few and far between.

Unlocking the door to her new store, Nielah Burnett can't wait to get her business up and running in North Nashville.

"You are walking into what will soon be Innerg Juice and Yoga," Burnett said. "If you look at most juice bars, most yoga studios, the people who either brown or behind the counters, don't typically look like me."

That's precisely why she's bringing her business here.

"I don't want to just come and put something here because I'm a business, and it's good for me. I want it to be good for the community that I'm stationing myself in," Burnett said.

Access to healthy foods has been an issue in underserved communities, not just in Nashville but also across the country. That need was only exacerbated because of COVID-19. Second Harvest has been on the front lines helping homeowners.

From March 2020-January 2021, they distributed 28,090 food boxes throughout their Emergency Food Box program in Davidson County. They also distributed 12,026,808 meals in Davidson County from March 2020-January 2021 through their partner agencies and programs.

"Antioch is in need of people who need food," Marcus Meneese, Founder & Executive Director of Stronger than My Father, said.

Stronger and My Father is a youth service where they mentor and provide for the community. The need showed last Thanksgiving when Meneese and others provided over 200 families with a bite to eat.

"It was a lot. We had a lot of phone calls. We had people ask for up to 14 plates," Meneese said. "When I got to Franklin, I see a difference in food vs. the difference in foods here. And, I always wanted to know why! There was always a difference. Is it because of the economics? They can afford better in Franklin than here? I don't think that's right!"

Deputy Mayor Brenda Haywood is in charge of community engagement with the city of Nashville. She says food deserts are a problem in various pockets of the city.

"I think the areas, in particular, are in the northwestern area. I think the Antioch area and south Nashville area," Deputy Mayor Haywood said.

Haywood says Mayor Cooper's goal is to revitalize those areas by working with schools, community organizations, and churches to transform food deserts.

"Above all, he wants every neighborhood and every community to not only survive, but he wants them to thrive," Deputy Mayor Haywood said.

As for Burnett, she's counting down until her grand opening. One that's been five years in the making.

"Representation matters. I mean, we're seeing that more and more—that call to action. We have to see ourselves on the wellness side of things," Burnett said.

She's one of the many people bringing healthy food choices to this historic part of the city, one store at a time. For more information on Burnett's news business, click here.

The USDA estimates about 23 million Americans lack access to healthy foods. Austin Warehime is a board member of the Nashville Food Co-op. They're a group of people here in Nashville trying to start up a community-owned grocery store. Their goal is to supply year-road locally sourced food.

Warehime saw News4's original story about food deserts and wanted to make sure people knew they're also trying to change things for the better. Warehime said they're looking for people to sign up as co-owners of the co-op.

"This has been a long and slow process. There was a market study that was done. I believe it was over five years ago that came back just phenomenal. And then there was a year or so of just building and just trying to coalesce what we learned from the market study and just bringing people together," Warehime said. And he said the need is dire.

News 4’s Caresse Jackman highlighted the 5 areas of Nashville considered a ‘food desert’ yesterday—and since that story aired we’ve got new information on additional efforts to improve healthy food access in our city.

"Food and food insecurity is probably the #1 topic that is not talked about in politics and in our society but could change our society and how it functions. If you give people food, if you change the agricultural system, you're changing the environment. You're changing healthcare because people are going to be healthier. You are helping communities come together and coalesce in one spot," Warehime said.

For more information on Nashville Food Co-op Community group, click here is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

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