Gwen McCauley

Gwen McCauley, the project manager for the Community Carrot Co-op, said north-end Halifax has been without a grocery store for about 30 years. (CBC)

A community-owned grocery store in Halifax's north end is one step closer to opening.

The Community Carrot Co-op won the Aviva Community Fund contest in January and it's now putting that money to good use.

Gwen McCauley, the project manager for the co-op, said north-end Halifax has been without a grocery store for about 30 years.

"This area is what urban planners would call a food desert. That means people have to travel more than two kilometres to get basic groceries," she said.

The idea for a food co-op in the north-end food desert was born about five years ago. Last year, the group won a $115,000 boost from the insurance company Aviva Canada.

Now, several other organizations have chipped in with loans to help purchase a building on Gottingen Street.

"I think we're all feeling a little bit shell-shocked because when you've been working for weeks and weeks and weeks, and then all of a sudden it's real, it has a bit of a surreal quality. But we're totally over the moon and can't wait," said McCauley.

The co-op will offer workshops on nutrition and will hire about 12 people from the community.

Co-op membership will be open to anyone and the profits will be shared equally. It's an idea that's going over well in a community starved for fresh food.

"I got some groceries but it's all canned stuff. It's like the only groceries I can get right now is canned," said David Logan after buying groceries at a pharmacy.

"Thirty years without a grocery store, we need one in this neighbourhood. No more lugging and taking a bus," said Diane Hubley.

Work will begin in March to transform the space at 2063 Gottingen St. into the new co-op. The doors are expected to open by April 2014.