Southeast Houston 'food desert' area to get new grocery store

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HOUSTON - Some families in southeast Houston will soon have better access to affordable, fresh and nutritious food, thanks to a new grocery store.

On Monday Houston Mayor Annise Parker, council members Stephen Costello and Dwight Boykins, the Houston Redevelopment Authority and others broke ground on the first project to target a Houston food desert.

Pyburn's owner John Vuong is building a first-class grocery store to serve South Union and surrounding neighborhoods. The store is scheduled to open in 2015.

"An estimated two-thirds of Houstonians are overweight or obese and a high percentage of them live in food deserts with no access to fresh food," said Parker.

"Everyone should have access to fresh food, no matter the zip code," said  Costello.

Vuong and his family own and operate 11 stores, nine are located in Houston.  The family has extensive experience operating in low to moderate income areas. The new venture, which must create a minimum of 25 jobs, will be the next generation of the company's stores, named Pyburn's Farm Fresh Foods.

"My family purchased the land at Scott and Corder over eight years ago, and this opportunity to partner with the city of Houston allows us to realize our dream of bringing healthy fresh food choices to South Union and the surrounding communities," said Voung.

The store will be located in council member Dwight Bokins' district.

"As a child growing up on welfare, my walk to school took me by this site," said Boykins.  "I am thankful to the mayor, the Voung family and all the other people who worked so hard to secure this opportunity for my community."

The city of Houston is providing a performance-based loan of $1.7 million for predevelopment, land acquisition, construction and equipment. The total project cost is estimated to be $3.7 million.

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