Wendell Pierce, of ‘The Wire’ and ‘Treme,’ to open groceries in New Orleans ‘food deserts’
The actor, beloved around here for his role as Baltimore Detective Bunk Moreland on “The Wire,” is in negotiations to open four grocery stores in low-income parts of his native New Orleans.
It’s an unusually hands-on form of celebvocacy — inspired in part, Pierce said, by Michelle Obama’s initiative to bring more supermarkets to “food deserts,” where residents lack easy access to fresh produce and meats.
Grocers have historically been reluctant to open locations in poor neighborhoods, citing problems with crime and transportation.
“This is the call to action that has gone out across the country,” Pierce told our colleague Ylan Q. Mui. “We are not sitting on the sidelines.”
“In the next few years, I hope to see the same new awareness about food that you find among the well-to-do--and the same access to good food--spreading among the poor, among ordinary, working people. If that doesn't happen, we will wind up in a society in which the wealthy are eating well and staying fit, and everyone else is eating cheap, crappy food and suffering from poor health. ”—Eric Schlosser, Food Inc.
Food Deserts and Access to Food
A new article from Slate on the issue of food deserts and access to food.
Food & Class: Moving Away From the Personal Choice Narrative
Oh look, a new blog for the reader.
We have people with limited access to personal transportation, coupled with working multiple jobs and longer hours, living in food-dead zones, where the nearest grocery store might be miles away. We have basically created an economy running so fast and unequally that the logic of this system is predicated on people also eating as quickly and cheaply as possible. This isn’t about people just not wanting to eat healthy food. Or not knowing some ridiculous cost-balance equation about how spending X amount of money on nutritious food today will save Y dollars on health bills in the future. Or the platitudes that if people stopped wasting so much money on material junk they’d have more money left to buy $4.00 organic peaches. It’s about a system in which food, which should be the most basic of rights, is now some repackaged, commodified afterthought.
The problem of consumer-based movements is that they tend to focus all the strategies on personal choice, disregarding structural inequalities that are at the root of our food problems. And even when they acknowledge these structures, they think that civil-society-promoted social movements can somehow operate successfully within the system. When thinking of food, the question should not be why people don’t eat well, but why we have created a system that reinforces—at a cost to mental health, financial security, and physical well-being—a food plutocracy where food has become increasingly fetishized at the top and placed out of the reach at the bottom.
Decaying food, past-due expiration dates, dirty floors and grimy counters
By Robin Erb
Detroit Free Press Medical Writer
Decaying food, past-due expiration dates, dirty floors and grimy counters — that’s what awaits many Detroit residents who rely on corner stores and liquor establishments for much of their diet, according to a new study.
In a report based on inspections by volunteers at 207 Detroit food retail establishments — mostly corner and party stores — inspectors found expired foods in one in three stores.
A third had what was described as “moldy filth” on walls and on refrigerator racks.
Half had dirty floors. One in five was selling decaying produce.
The reviews were less formal than a state’s food safety inspection and they carry no regulatory weight. Still, the findings are sobering.
In one place, “we found meat that was so old that it had turned brown and green,” said Brandi Trapp, 28, a volunteer inspector and a barista at a Detroit coffee shop.
Each violation is another barrier to healthy food choices for poor people in Detroit, said Minsu Longiaru, executive director of the Detroit-based Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan (ROC-Michigan), one of the report’s authors.
But the report also found that one in three businesses had no violations at all.
“This is a problem that has a solution,” Longiaru said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
The report was triggered, in part, by concerns from ROC-Michigan, which represents about 800 low-wage food service workers. Many make minimum wage or less, Longiaru said: “One of the ironies of working as a low-wage employee of the food service industry is not having access to healthy, safe food.”
The 207 businesses were drawn randomly from a list of more than 1,000 establishments in Detroit that both hold a liquor licenses and accept the state’s Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), or food assistance, card. Information from the one-page inspection report — developed by Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), a faith-based community activist organization — was compared against U.S. census data.
About 100 volunteers, trained by MOSES, conducted the inspections in groups of two and three.
The stores with the highest number of violations correlated with the poorest neighborhoods and those with the highest number of children, a particularly vulnerable population. That’s a one-two punch to families who have few choices and often must pay higher costs for lower-quality food, Longiaru said.
“It’s kind of setting them up for poor nutrition and all the problems that go along with that,” said Kurt Metzger, director of Data Driven Detroit, which collects data in southeast Michigan and analyzed the inspection reports.
Stores in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 45% or more averaged five food and sanitation violations, compared with 1.6 average violations in areas with a poverty rate of less than 15%.
The number of violations also increased in neighborhoods with a high number of minorities. Neighborhoods in which stores averaged 3.0 violations were largely populated by Caucasians. But in places where violations averaged 3.8 or 3.9, the residents were mostly Latino or African American.
Some of the survey data was based on subjective observation. For example, volunteers had to gauge whether a business was “poorly lit” or whether it “smells bad.”
But the fact that volunteers deemed one-third of the businesses free of problems indicates their commitment to reliable information, Longiaru said.
Some people just have absolutely no access to an 100% vegan diet because of the area of the world they live in. Do you have no compassion towards them? Or do you hate them because they eat meat to continue living?
I was just thinking about food and food access again.
Where I live now, I can buy a week’s worth of groceries for the amount of money I would spend on one meal at the grocery store in the town from which I recently moved (called X for the purposes of this). X is a food desert — it has one grocery store, which was a 10 minute drive from my house. It is the only grocery store that covers a large swath of the area. To find another grocery store, one would have to drive about half an hour to another town (sometimes a bit shorter or longer, depending on the season).
The food also expired much faster. (This is actually what sparked my thoughts on the subject.) I bought the milk in my fridge two and a half weeks ago, and the sell-by date isn’t until the 27th of this month. The milk is still perfectly fine, and probably will be for a few days after the 27th (although milk lasting this long in my house without being consumed is kind of a rare event). In X, the majority of the time I would have about a week to consume perishables like milk before they expired. The same goes for vegetables — already in rough shape at the store, there was a tiny window before they began to rot.
I have a car, so I was able to make trips to the grocery store as often as needed — and even drive half an hour to get items like Greek Yogurt (not offered at that grocery store) or slightly better produce. But imagine that situation without a car. No access to a store within reasonable walking distance — it’s possible to walk there, but it’s not remotely easy or ideal. One has to make a trip to the grocery store every week if one wants things like produce and milk because they expire so quickly, which would mean walking a long distance (and walking back carrying groceries) or arranging a ride every week. And people are going to judge others for not eating the way they think they should eat? That’s bullshit.
(NOT THAT I THINK PEOPLE WOULD HAVE A RIGHT TO JUDGE THE EATING HABITS OF OTHERS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. BUT HONESTLY. STOP WITH THE ‘IT’S SO MUCH CHEAPER, BLAH BLAH BLAH, TO EAT “HEALTHY” NONSENSE. PLEASE.)
Putting grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods will not cure the obesity epidemic
Recent research, suggests that locating more grocery stores in “food deserts” might not be the panacea for obesity that Obama and other advocates were hoping for. Instead, policy makers must employ strategies to increase wages and provide more affordable housing in order to truly address health in marginalized communities.