When the Carolina Farm Trust food distribution center opens next spring, Charlotte native Chris Peake will be employed there as general manager.
Peak attended Harding High School and Johnson C. Smith University, so returning to west Charlotte to run the food distribution center will be like coming “full circle,” he said.
During his youth, Peak said, he used to clean a parking lot where the distribution center will stand.
In a part of Charlotte with few grocery stores, the distribution center will be created to address that issue. It will be located at 511 Hoskins Road, just north of Interstate 85.
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The center will provide fresh food and other groceries. It also will have space for a commercial kitchen, community meetings and more.
I saw in your bio on the Carolina Farm Trust website that you work/have worked with at-risk youth. Can you share more about that?
I worked with Lutheran Family Services as a resident counselor while I was in college. They provide guidance and counseling services for kids that don’t have families that can do so. I lived there from Sunday to Tuesday and held the kids there accountable for following a schedule. I became a consistent figure in their lives (who) they could come to for encouragement and guidance.
Is this what you always saw yourself doing?
I worked in many other positions, but God always said he had something for me. In 2008 I worked as a realtor, around the same time the stock market crashed. After that, I worked as a satellite installer for Dish, making $12 an hour with two girls. But I kept hearing God’s voice say, “I’m preparing you for something.” From there I worked for the ABC store and worked my way up to manager, but still felt there was something more for me.
I met Zach Wyatt (president and CEO of Carolina Farm Trust) through mutual people we knew that introduced me to him and knew my history with helping neighborhoods. It was when he started talking about building a grocery store in west Charlotte that God said, “I told you I had something for you; you’re ready.”
We started talking more about how the area transformed into a food desert over the years and what we could do about it. We officially started working together the first week of January this year.
Was lack of access to grocery stores an issue for you growing up?
No, when I was growing up, we had many local grocery stores. We had a Winn-Dixie and a Bi-Lo; food came straight from the farm to the table. Over time I started to see all the stores leave the area. I saw the shift to the area becoming a food desert around 1984.
We hear a lot about west Charlotte in association with crime. What do you think makes west Charlotte special that people aren’t seeing?
The struggle and the community. The desire to build generational wealth and provide a level playing field has led to community involvement.
What other opportunities for growth do you see in this area?
First and foremost, jobs. We’re looking within the community to fill these positions before we look elsewhere. For me, I see the opportunity for growing financially and building family sustainability.
What organizations and communities will you partner with?
We’re looking to work with students at Central Piedmont Community College studying culinary arts that want more experience working in a commercial kitchen. We’re looking at using the commercial kitchen to connect those students with local restaurants. That way, should the restaurant be hiring for a new chef, that student has a shot at the job.
What’s your greatest inspiration for making this happen?
My greatest inspiration is God and my private walk with him. No matter what anyone else thinks of me, it’s him, because I can feel it. Everything is happening just like he said. I am also inspired by my fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi. They always want to know what they can do to help.
Editor’s note: Answers were edited for length and clarity.
This article was published as part of our West End Journalism Project, which is funded by a grant by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.