Local nonprofit works to fill food desert gap in North Omaha

An organization is helping families in an area they say needs better access to healthy food
Published: Apr. 22, 2023 at 12:17 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Hundreds of community members in North Omaha have fuller bellies Saturday thanks to the continued help of Black Men United, a local nonprofit that’s working to fill the food gaps that the North Omaha community experiences.

Every other Saturday morning on North 30th Street, a line of cars is parked in the road and stretches down and around the block.

“The need is so great,” says Willie Hamilton, the founder and CEO of Black Men United.

Community members waited for hours to get fresh food and other household necessities like diapers, dish soap, detergent and more.

“So many people have been impacted by the pandemic, employment, health, and they need help,” Hamilton adds. “So we finally supply healthy food - let me make sure I accent that - healthy food.”

North Omaha is surrounded by fast food chains, but there are almost no grocery stores for miles for many families that live in the area. Until that changes, Hamilton is filling the gap for struggling families.

“It’s a huge responsibility, but we need to fill this need so badly because so many people are hurting.”

Saturday morning, Hamilton invited Congressman Don Bacon back to his food pantry to show him how much they’ve grown. Bacon has visited several times in the past, but not in recent months.

“He’s always given to the community, this started as a smaller operation and it’s grown 10-fold,” Bacon says.

When the pantry first opened more than two years ago, Hamilton says there were serving just 30 families.

Now, that number has grown to around 1,000 families per month.

Bacon says it’s people like Hamilton and his team that make the United States so great.

“I salute Willie Hamilton and his hard work,” he says. “But it is shocking to have 1,000 people basically waiting to get food.”

“The reason why we only have 1,000 is because we run out of food,” Hamilton adds. “So we close our doors and cars keep coming and coming and coming and we have to say we no longer have any items. It’s disheartening because again, so many people are in need.”

Congressman Bacon says he’s working to continue to help the North Omaha community, including by bringing tax incentives for those who start businesses there.

He says this could be the path to ending the area’s food desert.

“If we can maybe incentive someone to come in and open more supermarkets that’s the way to do it, but we’re trying. In the end, we need to expand entrepreneurship, where people are putting in stores and things like that. That’s what will ultimately help life everybody up in North Omaha.”