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Roanoke was once home to the Valley’s Black Wall Street, and the historic Gainsboro area was a self-sufficient community, the center of black culture and commerce. But urban renewal from 1955-1980 decimated the community. Residents were displaced, and businesses, churches, and homes and homes were destroyed.

Responding to this need, Northwest Roanoke Food Access Initiative was launched in 2017. This community collaborative was spearheaded by NW residents, Roanoke College (Dr. Liz Ackley), the City of Roanoke, and many other community partners. The focus of this initiative was on reducing health disparities in the Northwest community and highlighting the alarming childhood obesity rates among Northwest Community children — as well as shortened life expectancy rates of NW Community residents — as compared to other parts of Roanoke.

Committed to contributing to the area’s strength and resilience, the Melrose Avenue facility provides a perfect opportunity to expand on the original work of the Food Access Initiative.

Four anchor initiatives were chosen to address critical needs. They will provide access to healthy, affordable food, family health services, education advancement, career opportunities, financial services, and other resources.

Operating as a center under one roof will make the services more accessible to community members. Using Goodwill’s existing structure means the initiatives will be able to become functional and available to the community more quickly, with our first phase, Market on Melrose, slated to open late 2024.