Quite often, a stark reality of being poor is that even if you wanted to do the right thing by your children, it’s damn near impossible to do. When The First Lady is being criticized for “anti-obesity” program, many in the media forget that it’s a political catch all that’s really a reductive way of knocking Michelle Obama’s focus on improving American childhood nutrition and food access for lower middle class and poor families. (video from whitehouse.gov)
You don’t have to be as wonky as Ezra Klein to realize that the problem that plagues the entire cities of Chester, PA and Detroit, Michigan is a horrific problem:
There are no chain grocery stores in all of Detroit.
Klein found this showstopper in the Charles LeDuff article featured in Mother Jones about the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven year old murdered in a botched SWAT raid being filmed for a reality show. “No grocery stores” as a the mark of the failure of a city is a horror story many south eastern PA residents find familiar. Many of us Philadelphians talk about how bad the problems are facing the residents and government of Chester, PA, the fact that a city with a population of 491, 489 people has no chain grocery store is a fact many of us use to drive the point home. Detroit has a population of 951, 270 people and no chain grocery stores.
Stand at the corner of Lillibridge Street and Mack Avenue and walk a mile in each direction from Alter Road to Gratiot Avenue (pronounced Gra-shit). You will count 34 churches, a dozen liquor stores, six beauty salons and barber shops, a funeral parlor, a sprawling Chrysler engine and assembly complex working at less than half-capacity, and three dollar stores—but no grocery stores. In fact, there are no chain grocery stores in all of Detroit.
Even though conditions aren’t as dire in most major cities, they still are far less than ideal. Rural and urban areas, that suffer from the lack of access (proximity, price and produce) to fresh food are called “food deserts”. Kansas City resident Sydnee Svejda, a single mom in the Budd Park neighborhood of Kansas City is profiled in the Kansas City Star:
A single mom, she spends two hours a day riding the bus to and from her job as a receptionist at St. Luke’s Hospital. Sometimes Svejda manages to pick up a few grocery items from the Cosentino’s Apple Market on her bus route. It’s easier than taking Sydnee and Xavier with her on weekend shopping trips, which can take more than two hours. But the bus lets her off on the wrong side of the street and she’s been cursed at by speeding motorists as she tries to cross multiple lanes of traffic carrying unwieldy grocery bags in her arms.
Svejda lives in what experts call a food desert: She can walk to the Taco Bell at the end of her block more quickly and easily than she can walk to the neighborhood supermarket. Roughly 2.3 million U.S. households live more than a mile from a supermarket and do not have access to a car. An additional 3.4 million households are one-half to 1 mile from a supermarket and lack transportation.
Junk food quite often fills the void for the working poor and unemployed in these under served areas. Add in the fact that many schools feed children unhealthy food for lunch, supporting a healthier food supply is key.