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Virtual Supermarket Launches In Cherry Hill

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A unique program is using a high-tech method to make sure Baltimore City families have healthy food at home. It's a virtual supermarket that's filling a major void.

Tim Williams has more on how a virtual supermarket is helping neighbors in Cherry Hill.

Juanita Ewell lives in a neighborhood city officials call a "food desert." There's no supermarket within walking distance for residents to find healthy, inexpensive food.

"At this point, the only food that is available is fast foods or these mom and pop grocery stores that sell food at a premium," said Ewell.

That is until now. The Enoch Pratt Free Library has become a lifeline.

Inside the Cherry Hill library branch, Ewell is grocery shopping.

It's called the Virtual Supermarket Project. It's a partnership between the Baltimore City Health Department and the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Residents can come in and order groceries online, pay for them, then pick them up at the same location the very next day.

"You are thinking, groceries at your library. I thought it was books and DVDs and things like that," said Dr. Carla Hayden, CEO, Enoch Pratt Library System.

This program is a first in the nation and Cherry Hill joins three other locations where the virtual markets are set up. All the areas have high mortality rates linked to diet.

"Studies have shown that if you increase the access to food, especially foods like fruits and vegetables, you'll lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and all these other obesity related co-morbidities," said Laura Fox, Baltimore City Health Department.

But finally there is choice.

Santoni's Supermarket stepped up to the plate when other grocery chains would not to make sure good food was available to all neighborhoods.

"Right now we have a fleet of three vehicles, drivers and personal shoppers who do nothing except receive phone-in orders from seniors who are on fixed income," said owner, Rob Santoni. "Knowing that Santoni's has the resources and the online shopping service to address the food desert problem, we view it as social responsibility."

Seniors and others can order online at the library and live healthier.

"Today I ordered fruit, I got apples, peaches, pork chops and chicken," said one customer.

This is the city's fourth virtual market. The project is funded by a $60,000 grant and plans to expand to other libraries in zones without grocery stores.

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