SPECIAL REPORT: Forgotten customers, lack of grocery stores in north Lake Charles

SPECIAL REPORT: Forgotten customers, lack of grocery stores in north Lake Charles

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The economic boom Southwest Louisiana is experiencing has brought with it, new people, jobs, and businesses.

While some areas of town are flourishing from the boom, other areas feel forgotten.

Marjorie Chavis, a resident of north Lake Charles said the economic boom is a false narrative.

"North Lake Charles is the forgotten part of the city," said Chavis. "Look at all of the hotels and all of these chains coming in from Texas. Where's ours? South of Lake Charles what don't they have?"

Craig Marks, another citizen of north Lake Charles echoed Chavis' statement.

"It seems like over a period of time everything is migrating south," said Marks. "I don't have a problem with progress no matter where it is. But when you're in a city the size of Lake Charles it needs to be evenly based."

Marks and Chavis, born and raised in north Lake Charles, say when it comes to where people buy food, it's a much different experience than those who live on the south side.

When you think about different grocery store options, say on Nelson road. There's an abundance, there's Walmart, Market Basket, Kroger, and Albertson's right down the street on Country Club road.

Chavis said it's a stark contrast to what you'd see say in parts of North Lake Charles, which according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a food desert.

Meaning access to affordable, healthy food options is limited because grocery stores are too far away.

These areas include households east of Enterprise Boulevard and residences that coincide with Hwy 14 and Hwy 171.

In some areas north of I-10, such as Goos Boulevard, North Shattuck St., Lyons St., and 1st Ave., 17.3 percent of households are without vehicles and more than half a mile from a grocery store.

"We're spending more for our food than those people who live in those areas," said Chavis. "You have to equate the gas you have to use to get over there. And then we have some residents who don't even have vehicles to get there, so we're really at a disadvantage."

Michael Smith, owner of Big Mike's Bail Bonds, is the administrator for the "Concerned citizens of North Lake Charles Facebook page," and said no matter what area of town you live in, or economic background, everyone has to eat."

"They do need more options because there are more people moving to the area," said Smith. "The area is expanding so there's always a need for grocery items."

Some of the residents feel as though they're confined to go to certain places within close proximity.

"People like options, I don't want to be forced to go to Walmart because it's the only store in my area."

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said him and his administration have already begun discussions on ways to entice businesses to come to North Lake Charles.

"Right now we're trying to push economic incentives in certain areas," said Hunter. "So that we can incentivize developers and the private industry to step in and say whereas before I might not have made that investment thanks to this tool I am going to build that grocery store, I am going to build that medical office, I am going to build that pharmacy, so we're optimistic."
 
Craig marks shares the mayor's optimism.

"North Lake Charles is a diamond in the rough," said Marks. "We were once a diamond. But due to circumstance, we fell but now we're coming back up. The time is right for businesses to come to North Lake Charles because if you think about it we're running out of space going south."

Mayor Hunter said it will take the work of both the community and Government working together to get a grocery store to North Lake Charles.

"My hope is the community is going to come together with the city," said Hunter. "Let's be partners in this because my motives are very clear I want economic opportunities in this city I want neighborhoods to be revitalized in this city and I think we can do it."

For a link to see if you live in a food desert click here: https://www.ers.usda.gov/data/fooddesert

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