FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – A Fayetteville City Councilman may have the answer to a food desert situation in one community.

Councilman Mario Benavente represents District 3 in Fayetteville. He wants to get a community-owned and operated grocery store in the Murchison Road area better known as Co-op.

“Those who are struggling with transportation having to carry so many groceries in their arms on the bus, I mean all of these things are issues that we can mitigate if we have a Co-op grocery here in this neighborhood,” Councilman Benavente said.

Many people living along Murchison Road have to travel outside of their neighborhood just to get fresh food. Since the Neighborhood Walmart closed in 2018, there hasn’t been a grocery store in the community.

“I believe the lease is still being held by them, and folks in this community really need a better option when it comes to getting good healthy groceries,” Benavente said.

City leaders say Walmart has been holding on to the lease to keep competitors out of the area. It has made it tough for another grocery store to come into the community. The Co-op grocery store is currently just an option the city is considering. First, it will need to find community partners who are interested in leading the charge.

Johnny Dawkins, Fayetteville Mayor Pro-Tem, said while there is a need for a grocery store on Murchison Road, the city shouldn’t get into the grocery store business.

“We have enough challenges with what we are responsible for – public safety, fire safety, growing our economy, improving the quality of life. I mean there is a lot we need to be doing but a grocery Co-op in my opinion is not what we should be doing,” Dawkins said.

He said he wants to work with Fayetteville State University in developing some city-owned property near Murchison on Rowan into a multi-use building. Past ideas for the building to be used for FSU student housing and perhaps a student-operated grocery store.

“I think a grocery co-op is a great idea. It’s excellent for college students,” Dawkins said.

“What they should do is have a form over there at Seabrook Center or something and people that’s interested in this that’s where they be able to come in and have some input about what’s going on,” Willie Gainey, Murchison Road resident said.