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Thread: Article about the grocery gap in inner-cities

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Article about the grocery gap in inner-cities

    From USA TODAY: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/...oddesert_N.htm

    HIGHLIGHT:
    studying and trying to address the issue of grocery gaps —— the lack of full-service supermarkets in lower-income neighborhoods.
    Had you heard of this ?
    Is this an issue/concern in your community ?

    Longer article about the Louisville, KY study at: http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/...NE07/711250469

    Yes, it is both an individual and community health issue.
    Oddball
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    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
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  2. #2
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    My understanding is that grocery stores in poor neighborhoods also tend to have higher prices. This may be in part because of higher crime rates, but it's a double whammy for the people living there.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    In California, Arizona, and Nevada, the new chain Fresh and Easy is seen as a possible answer to this problem. For those that don't know, Fresh and Easy is a division of UK-based Tesco and is planning on hundreds of US stores over the next few years.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl.../BUI5TSD7U.DTL

    I visited one in Las Vegas a month or so ago - it's a pretty decent little store - Trader Joe's sized, but with more "normal" foods. It will be very interesting to see how they end up doing in the less than optimal areas.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    Is this an issue/concern in your community?
    The City of Boston has done an amazing job tackling this issue. I believe that in the early-90s there were about three three full service supermarkets in the city limits. Today, almost every home in the city is withing walking distance of a supermarket. The city, through its redevelopment authority, actively encouraged many redevelopment projects to include a supermarket and preference was given to those that did. Once the corporations saw how profitable inner-city stores could be, they needed little encouragement to expand throughout the city.

    One issue that has come up in my current city is the excessive parking requirements for supermarkets and fitting a store into an existing urban fabric.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    One issue that has come up in my current city is the excessive parking requirements for supermarkets and fitting a store into an existing urban fabric.
    But if you have high foot and mass transit mobility the need for parking is greatly reduced. Back when I was living in New Brunswick, NJ the town really needed not just a food mart because they had a C-Town which was pretty dingy, I went in a few times just to get coffee or creamer for the office. It was in the city but wasn't very inviting.

    Crime is an issue for inner city food stores as well as the fact that the stores are often smaller so there isn't a wide range of products offered. Where most large Publix or Harris Teeter stores will offer 8 types of mayonnaise or 10 types of rice an inner city store will only carry 2 or 3 of a product so that lack of choice often deters shoppers.

    It can be done however, my father used to work for ShopRite in NJ/NY area, they opened a inner city store in Brooklyn and it did a great business catering to the Hasidic and Hispanic populations.
    @GigCityPlanner

  6. #6
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Another issue (and I have brought this up in these forvms before) is that in some areas, there is a serious problem with properties that are suitable for grocery stores having 'no compete' clauses in their property deeds prohibiting their use as grocery stores. They were built as grocery stores, the original owners eventually closed them and put the clauses in the deeds when the properties were placed on the real estate market. IIRC, there is a very large area on Chicago's southwest side with no grocery stores for that reason, even though there are several operators whom are anxious to get in without that impediment.

    Mike

  7. #7
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I'm glad to se this topic getting more attention - I think it is an important feature of public health that is not often discussed. The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based non-profit dealing with access to healthy foods, public school campaigns and more, has been working on this for some time and was the first group I saw talking about it (though I am sure there are others):

    http://www.thefoodtrust.org/

    The organization is really pretty amazing - they have a multi-million dollar budget to provide incentives for supermarkets to locate in poor areas of town - and the research they have done is top-notch. Check out some of their publications. You link to their "need for supermarkets" report which has some nice GIS-based geographic research linking income, health and access to markets and other sources of fresh foods here: http://www.thefoodtrust.org/catalog/...id=0&cursor=10

    They also have some very interesting programs addressing issues of youth, health, and diet both in the school and in local neighborhoods.

    I just started working here in Albuquerque with a group exploring the possibility of a "food charter" which would address issues of "food security" and am pushing to have this kind of access to markets and other sources of raw, fresh foods as an important feature of such "security" issues.

    Its not as bad here as in other larger cities, though, where people have to take multiple buses to get to a supermarket.
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    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    This was an issue in downtown Cedar Rapids. The Hy-Vee store on 1st Ave (aka Ghetto-Vee) was going to close. A lot of the residents down there don't have cars and public transportation in my fair city is a joke. Anyway, the city did some kind of partnership with the store to convince it to stay. They remodeled it and the city provides a constant police presence at the store. It seems to have been very successful.
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    In California, Arizona, and Nevada, the new chain Fresh and Easy is seen as a possible answer to this problem. For those that don't know, Fresh and Easy is a division of UK-based Tesco and is planning on hundreds of US stores over the next few years.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl.../BUI5TSD7U.DTL

    I visited one in Las Vegas a month or so ago - it's a pretty decent little store - Trader Joe's sized, but with more "normal" foods. It will be very interesting to see how they end up doing in the less than optimal areas.
    Fresh and Easy can claim all they want they are going to the inner city but they are going into middle class neighborhoods around the Phoenix area. I approached them about one in the city I work for and they informed me our socio economic demographics were too low.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  10. #10
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    Fresh and Easy can claim all they want they are going to the inner city but they are going into middle class neighborhoods around the Phoenix area. I approached them about one in the city I work for and they informed me our socio economic demographics were too low.
    I've heard the same complaint from colleagues in Las Vegas - however, I do know that in California they have committed to putting grocery stores in several low income and crime-ridden areas (Bayview in San Francisco, West Oakland, and Compton to name three). Whether or not these stores will stay long term or become a trend is the question.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    The state of Pennsylvania has, or had, a program designed to encourage grocery owners to locate stores in underserved communities. Unfortunately, I don't remember the details.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    What some of the larger chains in the Baltimore area like Giant, Safeway and Shoppers have found out is that they are making money hand over fist in their new central city stores. They are making more money per square foot than their suburban counterparts because the choice of quality grocery stores is limited and the distance between those stores. In suburbia, most residents have cars and can choose between different stores of the same chain, different chains and different neighborhoods all together. New grocery stores was a pet project of the former Baltimore mayor and besides it just makes good cents. Pun intended.
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    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Richi's avatar
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    The parking issue jemelo mentioned is another example of "one size fits all" regulation. I have noticed that often parking standards have never been updated and were often copied from other zoning ordinances to begin with.

    If its a neighborhood store, people will often shop for a short while several times a week and don't even need a shopping buggy or a car to tote the 100 lbs of stuff home from the weekly outing to the super market.

    Crime may play a part in the increased prices, but it is often as much a function of the lack of transportation options for the customers as anything.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Another article on this:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...021802117.html

    "Groceries Grow Elusive For Many in New York City
    With Rents Soaring, Stores Are Being Demolished for Condos

    By Robin Shulman
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, February 19, 2008; Page A03

    NEW YORK -- Alicia Rivera has no good supermarket within walking distance of her Brooklyn home. A leg injury keeps her from taking the bus, so every three weeks a friend picks her up and drives her to a different neighborhood to stock up on green peppers, milk, chicken wings, ground beef -- as much as she can fit in her kitchen to last until the next shopping trip.

    "It's hard," Rivera said as she unloaded her haul from the car into a cart. She buys mainly what she can freeze, and that means few fruits and vegetables. "I wish there was a good store close by," she added."

    also:

    "Today there are one-third fewer supermarkets in New York's five boroughs than there were six years ago, said Lawrence Sarf, the president of F&D Reports, a retail consulting company."

    (see link for rest of article)

    It also states that as one strategy to alleviate this, NYC is planning to license at least 1500 'greengrocer' pushcarts in the city, a sort of 'back to the future' move harking to when they lined the city's late 19th/early 20th century tenement streets.

    Mike

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Yet another article, this one in the New York Times, about the decline of neighborhood supermarkets offering fresh food in New York City:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/05/ny...l?ref=nyregion

    It seems to me this could be a good opportunity for someone...

  16. #16
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    UPDATE

    HEADLINE: Louisville's Corner Store Initiative aims to boost access to fresh foods Project to aid access to fruits, vegetables
    http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/...807060475/1008

    HIGHLIGHT:
    that transforming corner stores is just one part of a solution, but an important one that could help significantly in closing those gaps. "It would be fantastic if every corner store would convert, and carry more fruits and vegetables and less beer and cigarettes,"
    Groups invoved:
    Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness' Center for Health Equity http://www.louisvilleky.gov/Health/equity/

    Pennsylvania's Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a public-private partnership that awards grants and loans to increase access to fresh produce in disadvantaged areas. http://www.thefoodtrust.org/pdf/Comb...pplication.pdf

    Several of the comments are worth reading.
    Last edited by JNA; 07 Jul 2008 at 10:28 PM.
    Oddball
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    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
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  17. #17
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    One needs to realize that the geography of grocery stores have changed dramatically over the last 15-20 years. I used to work as a food broker for a while in college and stores were much smaller then and the spacing between them was not as great. Over time the grocery stores had to grow in order to compete with Super K, Super Walmart, and Meijers. Smaller stores cost much more to operated on a square footage basis than larger ones. This meant yanking smaller, less profitable stores, and replacing several with one large store. Inner city areas just don't have the space for larger stores, so as lesser profitable stores were closed, it was a lot more difficult to find a place to open larger stores. Think about when you were younger, most likely everyone could easily walk to a good quality store, no matter the neighborhood. Now it is much more difficult. Even folks in many forst tier suburbs have poor access to groceries and must find a way to get to markets further out to do their shopping.

    This left inner city areas with either substandard stores with high prices; or if you happen to live in a more yuppified area, little choice besides the stores that sold higher end everything.

    I am glad folks are studying how to adress this, and I wish them success. One bright side of higher gas prices could be the return of profitability for more smaller stores, and less of a demand for the superstore concepts. You can already see evidence of this somewhat in the mix of Family Dollar, Dollar General, and Dollar Tree stores, that are now selling much more food items and less household goods. Still you can't expect to get all of your groceries at these stores.

    Till then, I'm supporting my local markets and paying a bit more out of pocket, and going to the Eastern Market on occasion.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    I think Detoit Planner makes a good case.

    The massively dispersed geography of grocery stores in the US is the result of clear personal preferences. The middle-class will drive miles to spend a bit less for a gallon of milk. How much support would a city government have in subsidizing locations for grocery stores? To what extent do corner stores goods selections reflect what sells (as oppsoed to what nanny-state types wish people bought)?
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  19. #19
    Cyburbian Hceux's avatar
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    Do you call this "food desert"? One of my friends was doing a course or a study on food desert and I wondered if that term is ubiquitous.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Related article -
    HEADLINE: L.A. Official Wants a Change of Menu
    Councilwoman Seeks Moratorium on New Fast-Food Restaurants in South-Central
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...=moreheadlines

    HIGHLIGHTS:
    The proposed ordinance, which takes a page from boutique communities that turn up their noses at franchises, is supported by nutritionists, frustrated residents and community activists who call restrictive zoning an appropriate response to
    "food apartheid."

    "There's one set of food for one part of the city, another set of food for another part of the city, and it's very stratified that way," said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, executive director of Community Coalition, based in South-Central.

    With two fellow council members, Perry also assembled an incentive package aimed at attracting supermarkets and sit-down restaurants. And she backs efforts to bring fresh fruit and vegetables to corner stores

    "As far as we're aware, it's fairly precedent-setting," said Mark Vallianatos, director of the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College. "It's an important public statement on how planning intersects with food health."
    Bolding highlight is mine.

    The councilwomen raises a good question from how she described herself and we had a thread about this -
    at what point does this issue cross into nanny- state or is time to change our health/eating/economic behavior ?
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Plus
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    BUMP

    This story continues:

    HEADLINE: More Fast-Food Joints in Neighborhoods Mean More Strokes
    Analysis is interesting, but doesn't prove cause and effect, researcher says

    HIGHLIGHTS:
    Living in neighborhoods packed with fast-food joints could increase your risk for stroke by 13 percent, compared to residing in places where such restaurants are less plentiful, a new study suggests.

    Whether the link proves to be causal is not known, though, said study author Dr. Lewis B. Morgenstern, a professor of neurology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

    "The only thing we are certain about is, if you live in a neighborhood with a high fast-food restaurant concentration, you are at increased risk," Morgenstern said. He presented his study Thursday at the International Stroke Conference in San Diego.

    The bottom line for consumers? Anyone moving to a new locale should pay attention to the neighborhood, Morgenstern said, including the number of stores that sell fresh produce and the number of fast-food restaurants.
    http://health.usnews.com/articles/he...mean-more.html

    Wonder how many other county's would have the same results ?
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

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