Feds want to fight food deserts

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Detroit News‘ Nathan Hurst reports from D.C. on the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, proposed legislation that would commit between $400 million and $1 billion dollars to “building and improving stores where access to fresh food is limited.”

It’s modeled on a Pennsylvania program which provided start-up costs to grocery stores that promised to offer fresh food in low-to-moderate-income areas which didn’t yet have adequate access to such things. Detroit is the sort of city that would benefit most from a boost in urban groceries, Hurst writes.

vegetablesPhoto by paige_eliz via Flickr

Carr said the prospect of federal subsidies to increase the number of grocery stores could be a boon to a city where large areas for years have had limited access to fresh produce and meats. In 2003, a University of Michigan study showed Detroit could easily support 41 large supermarkets — which measure more than 40,000 square feet — but at the time had only five with more than 20,000 square feet, and at least two of those have closed since the study was done.

How do these food deserts emerge in the first place? The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s Laura Baverman explains by looking into that city’s shrinking grocery selection. Baverman explores several contributing factors, including a lack of the huge lots preferred by big box stores, booming suburbs and struggling independent stores, but in the end she comes back to brutal economic reality:

“You don’t get the sales levels in the inner city that you do out in the suburbs,” said Matt Casey, president of Matthew P. Casey & Associates, a New Jersey-based grocery industry consultant. “You tend to have a lower-income customer base, so they’re not spending as much. They don’t make the impulse buy.”

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1 thought on “Feds want to fight food deserts

  1. Chet Sisk

    Whole Foods and I have come up with a creative way to solve part of the food desert problem. We’re doing a year long campaign to send organic and natural food to homeless shelters around the nation. I’ts called the Quality Foods For Everyone program and I am it’s founder. $2 from each of my new books sold (Think This/Not That) goes into a giant pool to purchase organic and natural food at cost from Whole Foods, then we donate that food to the shelters every month. You can find out more at http://www.chetsisk.com.

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