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'Grocery and Health' in Canton aims to provide free and low-cost medical care, groceries

Posted at 6:36 PM, Apr 19, 2022

CANTON, Ohio — You may not think twice about hopping in the car to head to the store or doctor's appointment, but for many in Northeast Ohio, access to quality food and health care is anything but easy. One community is bringing those critical needs back to a neighborhood, all in one place.

"When you don't have transportation, if you have to catch the bus and or walking, everything seems far out,” said Christine Smith with Grocery and Health in Canton. “In order to have a healthy family, a healthy life, you need a healthy community.”

That's the drive behind a plan to turn a vacant building on Gonder Avenue in Southeast Canton into a combination health center and grocery store.

“You can imagine coming in for your diabetes appointment and then leaving and being able to shop and get fresh produce right on the other side,” said Don Ackerman, also with the new combination complex.

The groups "Canton For All People" and "Starkfresh" are behind the store.

“A grocery store in this neighborhood would mean so much because we've been a food desert for so many years,” Smith said.

The “My Community Health Center" is responsible for the medical side of things.

“Access to great health care is going to be our focus,” said Grocery and Health representative Terry Regula. The health center will provide primary care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, while the hope is for the market to offer food for purchase and for free.

The plans to breathe new life into a neighborhood that has seen divestment for decades don't end there.

“We can't just end with a market; we're trying to put other needed resources in this community, whether that be a laundromat in the future, a shopping plaza or whatever that ends up being,” Ackerman said.

Local churches came together to help cover the overhead costs of running the market for the first 10 years, so the profits can go towards further investments in the community.

“It's a bigger picture and we all have a part to play,” Regula said.

The City of Canton is also providing funding for this project, as are charities. They're still waiting for the building to officially be transferred, and hope to get started on the project this summer.

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