Some people are not comfortable with, or don’t like sharing their age. I am sure many factors play into their reasoning; however, I am OK sharing my age mainly because I am so thankful to have lived to be 52 years old. Born in 1966, I am on the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, and at the beginning of the Millennial generation, which I guess makes me a pretty different, just plain odd human being.

In 1972 I was in the first grade at Mariam Boyd Elementary School and I carried my book bag in my hand, not on my back. I was in Mrs. Barbara Talley’s class and distinctly remember the very kind, friendly custodian, Mr. Jethro Turner. School lunch tasted like Sunday dinner, and I distinctly remember my school bus having a round shape at the top.

At home, we had party telephone lines; when the telephone rang double times, I knew it was our call and not my grandmother’s, who lived next door. There were no cellphones, no internet or television remote controls.

On my days off from school, I remember my paternal grandmother taking caring of me, and I so enjoyed our trips to town, Warrenton. She would pack us kids in the car, and away we went. Grandma Alston—which is how we distinguished one grandmother from the other; it seems so formal when I say it now—she didn’t work outside of the home, and to be honest, I think she got pretty bored with the monotony of staying home every day, because she would distribute her errands during the week, giving us all a reason to get out of the house.   

However, when I reflect on those trips downtown, the choices we had for shopping amazes me! I remember driving past the post office, movie theater—yes, I did say movie theater—the record shop, Roses, Hunter’s drug store, Leggett’s, and Davis’s. But what amazes me the most, there were three grocery stores all within three blocks of each other. Yes, the A & P, Wood’s Grocery, and Colonial Store. I was the green stamp collector in our house.    

My point? Where are the grocery stores now? From three in 1972 to none in 2019. I think it is official to say that Warrenton is now a food desert: a place where there is no access to affordable, nutritious food. There is the Food Lion in Norlina; however, if a person lives in the far eastern end of our county and does not have transportation, what does that mean for them?  How do they get access to affordable, nutritious foods year-round?

According to the 2017 Warren County State of Health Report, published by the Warren County Health Department, the major cases of illnesses in our county are diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, and the leading cause of death in Warren County is heart disease.

One may say that people in our county are not starving, so there is access to food. But again, I ask, is the food healthy and nutritious? Canned and boxed foods are in abundance; however, canned goods purchased from the shelves can be the least healthy. For example, if you go to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, purchase and can your own sweet peas, they are healthy because you can control what goes into the jar, namely, the amount of sodium. However, that is not quite the case with a can of sweet peas purchased from a store.   

Making a valiant effort to prove my point, I looked at the label on a generic can of sweet peas. The average amount of sodium per serving is 300 mg. According to the American Heart Association, the average daily sodium intake should be 1,500 mg per day for most adults. Now, the sweet peas are considered healthy, but that is just 1 serving of peas, not considering the remaining day’s intake of food. Just imagine eating canned meat, and canned or boxed vegetables and carbohydrates every meal, every day. It might seem odd to some, but trust me, it is happening more often than not.

I often view my commute to work as a blessing and a curse; however, commuting does give me options of various places to shop for affordable, nutritious foods throughout the year. But being the person that I am, I can’t stop thinking about people who don’t leave the county to travel to work, or for leisure. Where are they shopping for affordable, nutritious foods, (fruits and vegetables)?   

As I am very proud to call Warrenton home, and despite many challenges we have in our county, I have lived here the majority of my 52 years, and lead a productive life as a citizen; however, in terms of progression and upward mobility, I am saddened now when I go to town and ride by the empty, somewhat abandoned building that once held one of the keys to good health in our county, nutritious foods. The lights are on, but there is no life inside.

T.A. Jones is a regular contributor to The Warren Record and the author of “A Summer with No Ice Cream.” She can be reached at terryalstonjones@gmail.com.