BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After nearly 40 years in business, Sewell's Grocery Store in Scotlandville is just as much a resident of the community as the people who come in and out daily.
"I know everyone and everyone is my friend," said David Sewell, Jr. who took over the store from his parents.
Sewell's is located in a part of East Baton Rouge Parish that is considered a food desert, meaning most residents there do not have easy access to a grocery store. Finding fresh foods is a familiar challenge to many who live and work in the area, like Cecilia Santangelo who owns Kelly's Meat Market on Plank Road.
"It's a challenge for anyone who's in the neighborhood and walking. For them to get to that grocery store, they would have to cross a six lane highway," said Santangelo.
While these family-owned corner stores have always had basic pantry items, they now have something new to offer residents thanks to the Healthy Corner Store Program- fresh produce.
The program was started by the Mayor's office as a part of the Healthy BR movement. The goal is to make it easier for residents to find fresh produce and healthy food options.
Fourteen stores applied for a grant to help pay for improvements as well as expensive equipment needed to store fresh foods. Four stores were chosen including Sewell's Grocery and Kelly's Meat Market. The other two stores were Capital Grocery in Spanish town and Beechwood Meat Market on Beechwood Drive.
"Everybody's excited. Everybody's just joyful and everybody is just thankful," said Sewell.
Officials hope that these small steps will make a big difference in fighting the many health problems that plague the Baton Rouge community.