Nonprofit launches ‘Re-imagine St. Pete’ to address food desert and hunger in South St. Petersburg

A lot of focus in St. Pete has been on redevelopment, including a potential new Rays stadium and redevelopment project.

But one area of St. Pete is simply looking for a grocery store.

"I want to say myself, I’m one of the ones that when I didn't have enough food on my table, my pastor looked out for me and my family," said Debbie Newkirk-Evans.

Newkirk-Evans said she knows firsthand what it's like to not know where your next meal will come from. Like many of her neighbors in South St. Pete, she turned to Positive Impact Ministries which has been feeding neighbors since 2020.

"For us parents, this is a blessing to us all to be able to eat and feed our families together," shared Newkirk-Evans.

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700 neighbors a week line up on Saturdays along 22nd Street South to receive boxes of fresh groceries, an area considered a food desert.

"This area has gone without a grocery store for seven years now. We don't have another seven months. We need to give these neighbors what they not only need, but what they deserve to have right here in their neighborhood," said Karen Rae, the executive director of Positive Impact Ministries, which made an all cash offer to purchase Tangerine Plaza from the city to create a neighborhood market.

It's part of their new initiative called ‘Re-imagine St. Pete.’

Rae said it is a hunger relief campaign that's trying to create a network of neighborhood markets, an urban garden, and a food pharmacy where people can learn how to use food centered healthcare. There are also plans for a culinary arts center.

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"Our neighbors are relying upon gas station diets. That's not good for them," explained Rae. "I want a mother to be able to bring her young child shopping for groceries, and I want that child's experience to not be any different than any other child that they go to school with."

Rae said they’d like to do it in South St. Pete but if the city selects another buyer for Tangerine Plaza, they’ll find another location to keep trying to address hunger in the community.

"Our focus is on where the need is, and we're standing right in the middle of a food desert right here at Tangerine Plaza in South St. Pete. So we want to meet the needs that these neighbors have for fresh, whole foods," said Rae.

The nonprofit will host an event introducing the "Re-imagine St. Pete" initiative to the community on June 21 at the Center for Health Equity.

Those looking to be community partners can register to attend that event.

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