Tag Archives: food desert

Fighting Food Deserts in Birmingham

Photo via GOOD.com

Photo via GOOD.com

I love win-win stories. Check out this one from GOOD that tells how small farmers in Birmingham, Alabama, benefit from a base of consumers, and a neighborhood gets good food and local jobs. What a way to build community.

The Southwest Fresh Market in Birmingham, Alabama, is a volunteer led program initiated by REV Birmingham. A nonprofit organization working with local government, business, and community partners, its focus is to find solutions to a common challenge: connecting urban, often low-income residents with small farmers looking to boost sales.

More than 40 percent of Birmingham residents live in areas defined as food deserts, since grocery stores have shut their doors and big box retailers moved to the outskirts of the city. Food deserts are a problem because they limit residents’ opportunities for finding healthy food.

Read more about the initiative on GOOD.com.

Boxcar Grocer: A Natural Food Depot

If you remember my post last fall about Stockbox, the mini-market in a box–as in shipping container–designed to offer essential grocery items and fresh produce for urban food deserts, you might be interested in Boxcar Grocer. And if you live in Atlanta, you might really  be interested in this independently, family owned business with a new vision of the corner store: a place that recognizes the health of a nation begins with the health of its individual communities.

This corner store alternative, where local and organic food options get prime shelf space instead of cigarettes, lotto tickets, liquor, and processed foods, is an attempt to make local, fresh food available where large grocery stores don’t exist to fulfill the needs of diverse urban communities in Atlanta.

If you have the opportunity to check it out, let me know what you think!

Walgreens: Creating Food Oases Among Food Deserts

Last fall I wrote a blog post about a woman in Chicago, LaDonna Redmond, who is addressing the food desert problem there by offering produce from urban farms at a market called Graffiti and Grub. Now, according to The New York Times, the drugstore chain, Walgreens, is selling an expanded selection of food–including fresh fruits and vegetables–at 10 Chicago locations selected because they were in food deserts. 

Food deserts are usually in low-income urban neighborhoods laden with fast-food  restaurants and convenience stores selling processed food. There is rarely a produce market because residents in food deserts “are not providing enough profit to be offered more healthful grub,” says The Times.

A study done in Chicago by Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group showed the city’s food desert boundaries and linked block-by-block grocery-access data to food deserts. The study got the attention of Chicago politicians, resulting in a request to Walgreens from Mayor Richard Daley’s office.

While a drugstore may not seem like the obvious solution to food deserts, they are ubiquitous, making them good candidates. About 25% of the participating Walgreens stores’ square footage is now dedicated to food. And other drugstore chains, such as Duane Reade and CVS, are now offering more healthful choices in food.

The Times said that Gallagher’s goal, ultimately, is to increase choice. “She is less concerned about purging food deserts of fast food or other processed-sustenance options than she is with adding more healthful options to the menu.” The Walgreens experiment provides an oasis of fresh food where none existed before.

Fighting the Food Desert War

LaDonna Redmond of Graffiti and Grub, Chicago

LaDonna Redmond of Graffiti and Grub (Photo via Time.com)

I was reading the current issue of Time magazine today and came across the collection of “25 Responsible Pioneers”, which highlights companies and consumers that are making a difference in the world.

One pioneer instigating change in Chicago is LaDonna Redmond, who lives on the city’s South Side. She got tired of driving across town to find produce free of pesticides so she opened Graffiti and Grub, a for-profit market. According to their website, Graffiti and Grub–the brainchild of LaDonna Redmond and Wil Seegars–is a healthy, sustainable, local food experience for the hip hop generation, a community-based solution to the issue of food deserts. The market is staffed by inner-city youth who also work on urban farms in an employment program run through the store.

What’s a food desert? It usually occurs in the inner city areas, which don’t often have access to full-service grocery stores, making it more difficult for residents to eat fresh produce.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Bright Green Blog cites Detroit as a food desert “for its lack of  chain stores that carry fresh fruits and vegetables…. And public transportation options are few for anyone who wants to travel to a neighborhood with more food choices.”

One nonprofit group in Detroit, the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corp. (which runs its own produce market called Peaches & Greens) decided to make a difference by transporting produce from community gardens to the inner city.

Interested in helping out? There’s a Food Desert website aiming to build a community around the food desert problem. And, did you know it’s Food Desert Awareness Month? Check out Mari Gallagher’s post in yesterday’s Huffington Post and don’t forget to take the Good Food Pledge.

As LaDonna Redmond says, “Everyone deserves healthy food.”