Tag Archives: Food Desert

Highland Square is a Food Desert No More!

30 Mar

You know how I posted about food deserts a few days ago and wrote that my neighborhood lacks a local grocery store?  Well, Highland Square is a food desert no more!  (Well, soon anyway.)

Today, The Akron Beacon Journal announced that we’re going to be getting a Mustard Seed (fancy locally owned health and organic food type grocery store).  It seems that I wasn’t the only one concerned about the lack fresh food.  The City of Akron owns some of the retail space in the area and put out a request for bids from grocery stores a while back.

I guess this has been in the works for a while and I’ve been completely oblivious.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic made the announcement this afternoon. The city picked Mustard Seed, which already has stores in Montrose and Solon, from four grocers who submitted proposals.

Plusquellic made his decision after meeting with Highland Square business leaders, neighborhood residents and leaders of the Highland Square Neighborhood Association.

Also, apparently we have a neighborhood association

The location of the new store is only about 1/4 mile from my house.  Yea for being able to walk to the store when I realize that I’ve forgotten some vital ingredient.  (This happens pretty much every time I cook.)

And, the best part, according to one of the commenters “the store will be designed to be affordable and teach people how to cook healthy”.  Does this mean free cooking classes?  Because if so, I am there!

Of course, not all the commenters were happy.  (Have you ever seen all the commenters be happy?  I think that’s statistically impossible.)  Generally, the complaints were that low-income people in the neighborhood (as I said previously, I live in a mixed-income community) don’t eat organic food or cook anyway (Way to stereotype!) or that the store would be too expensive for many residents to afford.

It’s true that Mustard Seed is expensive (there’s no way that I could afford to do all of my shopping there), but it’s going to be fantastic to be able to walk to a grocery store.  I can already walk to a library, a coffee shop (locally owned, thank you!), and a Chipotle.  This neighborhood is getting better and better!

Food Deserts, On the lack of healthy food in urban spaces

26 Mar

One of my regular readers asked me to do a post about Food Deserts.

Market Makeovers, which seeks to ameliorate food deserts, defines them as such:

“Food desert” is a term that describes geographic areas where mainstream grocery stores are either totally absent or inaccessible to low-income shoppers. Though these may be located in the vicinity, they remain unavailable to low-income residents because of high prices and inadequate public transit.

Food deserts don’t mean that there’s no food available, just a lack of access to healthy food – namely fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, and dairy.  By their very nature, these products are prone to spoiling and don’t do well on convenience store shelves.  So, in communities where convenience stores and fast food restaurants are the main sources of food, there’s often a lack of access to these healthy foods (at least at an affordable price at an accessible distance).

I live in an area (downtown Akron, OH), that some people may consider a food desert.  The local grocery store went out a few years ago and has not been replaced.  My neighborhood is mixed, racially and socioeconomically.  For people like me, the drive to a grocery store isn’t a problem.  But, I suspect that a lot of my neighbors, especially the poorer ones, don’t have cars.  And, for them, the lack of access to a local grocery store is probably a real problem.

People in food deserts are often obese and malnourished at the same time.  As Newsweek explains: “the food insecure often eat what they can: highly caloric, mass-produced foods like pizza and packaged cakes that fill them up quickly… Lower-income families choose sugary, fat, and processed foods because they’re cheaper—and because they taste good.”  (From Newsweek’s wonderful piece What Food Says About Class In America.)  And, even if we put a grocery store on every corner, people would still buy processed food – because it’s cheap, and convenient, and fast.

Talking about (and solving) food deserts is complicated.  It involves so many other problems like urban decay and agricultural subsidies.  And, the solutions are complicated, too.  Things like farmers markets and food co-ops can help, but there are bigger, societal problems to.  Many of the winning proposals in Slate’s “Time to Trim Childhood Obesity” idea contest address some of the underlying issues.  Personally, I like the one about incentivizing people on food stamps to buy healthier food by making their food stamp “dollars” stretch farther on fresh foods than processed ones.

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