Food World: A Community of Communities

By Jisoo Yoon

As a Korean from New Jersey, my idea of the Southern landscape was vaguely based on what I’ve seen in movies and what I observe around my college in Durham, NC. It was difficult for me to imagine a South that is non-white or non-black, or a Southern landscape that doesn’t include the tobacco warehouses and water towers of the Bull City. This all changed when I stepped into an international grocery store that was tucked in at the outskirts of Durham – Food World.

Food World opened just 8 years ago when a Korean couple from Argentina, Sandra and Gwangsik Lee, transformed a shutdown grocery store into a Latin American food market. Back then, it was the only store that served the minority population of the Durham region. 8 years later, the Asian and Hispanic population of North Carolina has grown significantly, and so has Food World.

National flags of over 30 countries hang over the aisles, and colorful piñatas deck the ceilings of Food World. The international grocery store truly deserves its title, as people from all walks of life and ethnical backgrounds visit the store for its products. The Mexican café inside the store has made Food World a mingling ground for local minorities. The friendliness and generosity of Sandra and Mr. Lee also attracted a community of frequent customers who visit the store for its people as well as the produce.

From my 8 weeks of visiting Food World, I have learned so much about a community I had not noticed before. The Koreans, Mexicans, Ethiopians, etc. all represent the small yet growing demographics in the modern South. At Food World, these various minority groups come together as family, lovers, and friends. I will miss being part of that special environment as the photographer. I hope this documentary offers a glimpse into what Food World means to me and many others.