AUBURN — The City Council on Monday allocated $150,000 toward a grant program to encourage new or expanded “neighborhood corner stores.”

Officials said the new program, approved unanimously, is part of a larger city goal of “enhancing access to healthy food choices, while creating healthy neighborhoods within the urban core.

City staff said the individual grants of up to $35,000 will support either the establishment or expansion of “essential corner stores,” which derive at least 50% of revenue from food and groceries.

Glen Holmes, director of Business and Community Development, said the funds could be used existing businesses to upgrade store infrastructure or for someone opening a new venture. The business must be at least a quarter-mile from a regional or national grocery chain.

According to a council memo, all proposals must provide a detailed budget and explain how the expansion or construction “will provide a net increase in healthy food options to their neighborhood.”


Holmes said an application process is on track to launch Jan. 1.

The memo said the initiative aligns with Auburn’s Comprehensive Plan, which aims to “ensure that fresh, local food is equitably accessible to everyone regardless of income or geography” by “supporting practices that facilitate access to healthy food in residential settings.”

Councilors said $35,000 grants for such work are even more meaningful now that interest rates on loans are so high.

During an earlier workshop on the proposal, former Councilor Andy Titus questioned whether programs like this can give a “competitive advantage” to stores who are awarded the grant, versus stores that aren’t.

Mayor Jason Levesque said Monday that supporting neighborhood grocery stores not only builds food security but also promotes “healthy lifestyles and integrated neighborhoods.”

“I’m excited to see what could happen, anything from a rehabilitation of Roy’s Foodland in New Auburn to new butcher shops and bakeries opening up in great neighborhoods throughout our city,” he said.

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