Income, education levels preventing major organic food stores fr - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Income, education levels preventing major organic food stores from coming to the Mountain State

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There are grocery stores dedicated to eating fresh, healthy and organic foods. Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's, they're popping up across the nation as the 'it' place to shop, but not in West Virginia.

In fact, if you live in West Virginia and want to go to one of these stores it's quite a drive. The closest Trader Joe's to the capital city is 136 miles away. Whole Foods is even farther, clocking in at a good 232 miles.

It’s a drive Amie Breedlove knows all too well. Once a month she and her husband load up their car and drive hours to shop at Whole Foods.  

“There are certain things I can't get here and there is more variety. To know that I don't have to search around the store to find unprocessed food and it's local as well,” said Breedlove.

Both stores say, at this time, there are no plans of opening up shop in West Virginia.

In a statement to 13 News, Whole Foods said, “Store site decisions are based on a combination of various factors, including the availability and cost of real estate, population density, and interest in natural and organic foods. No one factor is most important.”

A representative for Trader Joe’s left 13 News a voice message, saying “CharlestonWest Virginia is not in our 2-year plan of opening a location. Unfortunately we do not disclose what goes into our decision making processes of selecting a location.” 

So 13 News wanted to know what the numbers tell us and these health-conscious stores about the Mountain State.  

The 2010 US Census Bureau estimates there are 1.85 million people living in West Virginia.

About 51,000 of them live in Charleston, the largest city, and under 50,000 live in Huntington.

 “We're a very rural state as you know. We're not considered an urban state.  Charleston is really the true urban city, if you will, in the state of West Virginia. That and Huntington,” said Ric Cavander.  

Cavander is the executive director of Charleston's East End Main Street. He's spent the past 11 years revitalizing this part of the city but the area still lacks one important thing:  it doesn't have a grocery store.

“The parcel of land you are looking at right now is the largest parcel of land we have available,” he said. “It is right at an acre.”

And the perfect spot, he said, for a store like Trader Joe's, which views itself as a neighborhood specialty grocery store.

“Everyone wanted a grocery store, everyone wanted something fresh, healthy. And that type of set-up, that type of store fulfills all of those needs,” said Cavander.

But stores are looking for wealth but more importantly, they're looking at education levels.

The Organic Food Trade Association says when it comes to buying organic food, higher education levels matter most because educated shoppers are more likely to experiment with food.

In West Virginia, only 18 percent of the population have a college degree or higher.

“We keep seeing these polls that West Virginia is the most miserable state to live in. They always say, you know, the lack of education. Well it's because we're not given the education. And if you haven't traveled to a Whole Foods or somewhere where you can find the healthy food, then you don't know about it,” said Breedlove.