The Highland community in west Gastonia has lacked a grocery store for decades, but there are steps being taken to lessen food scarcity in the community.
In May, Donyel Barber helped to create a food kitchen in the food-scarce area, known as RAMS kitchen, an acronym for Really Amazing Meals with Soul.
Barber, a member of Gastonia City Council, hopes to expand the healthy resources of the kitchen by opening a food truck in January 2022.
“The City Council has been working on attracting a grocery store to the area for many years but we can’t force a business into the area,” said Barber.
Some grocery store chains may not place stores in certain communities because the community doesn’t meet a specific median income, Barber said.
She hopes that the FUSE District and balancing growth like building new homes in the Highland community will make for a good recipe to attract stores.
“The Healthy Highland Enterprise wants to improve the health and well-being of the Highland community,” said Barber.
The enterprise, created by Barber, represents a collaboration of resources dedicated to providing healthy, affordable food to the community.
The collaboration includes Kintegra Health, Gaston County’s Department of Health and Human Services, the city of Gastonia, Third Street Presbyterian Church, The Highland Neighborhood Association and CaroMont Health.
Barber says the enterprise began with the idea of the Really Amazing Meals with Soul Kitchen, located at 605 N. Highland St.
“The kitchen really started when people in the Highland community saw a lot of community members struggling with chronic health diseases and thought to tackle the issue of obesity,” said Barber.
The community struggles with some of these chronic health conditions from not having a local grocery store, Barber says.
Barber’s previous work as a director for Family Promise of Gaston County, a homeless shelter, gave her an idea for a solution, she said.
“Homeless shelters teach you to use underutilized resources like churches to serve the community,” said Barber. “I thought, ‘Why not use a church commercial kitchen like the one at Third Street Presbyterian for a central kitchen and serve food to the community?'”
The idea created R.A.M.S. Kitchen, which serves 800 meals a week.
Barber plans to provide healthy food choices from the food truck with menu items similar to items served at R.A.M.S. Kitchen like shrimp, grilled chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, eggplant salad and more.
“We’re also hoping to expand our menu,” said Barber.
Reach Janiya Winchester at 704-869-1842 or [email protected]