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Old Posted Mar 17, 2014, 12:24 PM
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Atlanta's Food Deserts Leave Its Poorest Residents Stranded and Struggling

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/20...ggling-survive

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In most of the world's densely packed urban areas, you can pick up fresh produce at a stall on the way home from work or buy bread, meat and staples at the cornershop across the street. But in sprawling metro Atlanta, where the model is megamarkets surrounded by mega parking lots, few of us have the option of a quick dash to the store.

When you're trying to figure out what to fix your young children for dinner and you realise you need milk and eggs and a bag of salad greens and chicken breasts, and you have no choice but to load everyone in the minivan and drive five miles through traffic to get to the store, you're feeling the impact of US development patterns that have made Atlanta the third-worst urban food desert in the country (behind only New Orleans and Chicago).

Living in a food desert doesn't just make it tough to get your daily servings of fruit and vegetables. A 2011 Food Trust geographic analysis of income, access to grocery stores and morbidity rates concluded that people who live in metropolitan Atlanta food deserts are more likely to die from nutrition-related sicknesses like diabetes and heart disease.

In Atlanta, the ninth-biggest metropolis of the world's richest country, thousands of people can't get fresh food, and some are getting sick as a result. Which raises a simple question: why can we build multimillion-dollar highway systems and multibillion-dollar stadiums, but not more grocery stores? If we can build a museum dedicated to a soft drink and one that celebrates college football and another that trumpets civil rights, can't we help our neighbours with what seems to be a most essential and basic right: putting an affordable and healthy dinner on the table?

...

He used an iPhone app to track shelf stock and logged 311 miles by bike as he visited 20 stores. Barrett's findings are dispiriting: half of the stores he surveyed carried zero produce. Of the other 10, most stocked only one or two types of fruit – usually apples or bananas, placed up at the cash register along with lottery tickets and cigarettes.

Shoppers Supermarket, however, stocked 17 types of vegetables and eight kinds of fruit; the only nearby store with greater selection was Walmart (97 varieties of vegetable, 45 types of fruit).

If Shoppers is the best-case scenario for corner stores, a mile down the road, Simpson Food Mart represents the norm. A neatly painted sign touts eggs, milk, groceries and sandwiches. Inside, however, the tiny store smells like smoke and echoes with the electronic clank of four video slot machines that occupy about a third of the floor space. On one of my visits there, the four black stools in front of the machines were occupied by players, while a handful of observers squeezed behind them.

The gaming area might have once held a dairy case; now the few pints of milk and cartons of eggs are stored in minifridges on a counter that also holds wrapped sandwiches.

"We don't stock any fruit or vegetables," the clerk told me when I asked if he had any apples. The closest thing resembling produce I could find in the store was a pint of Tropicana apple juice.

One of the paradoxes of food deserts is that the people living in them often have the highest rates of obesity – and its associated illnesses.
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Old Posted Mar 17, 2014, 2:02 PM
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This comment was interesting… "why can we build multimillion-dollar highway systems and multibillion-dollar stadiums, but not more grocery stores? If we can build a museum dedicated to a soft drink and one that celebrates college football and another that trumpets civil rights, can't we help our neighbours with what seems to be a most essential and basic right: putting an affordable and healthy dinner on the table?"

Seems to suggest that grocery stores should now be built by the government in a similar manner as highway systems?
Generally I would think most people would think of a grocery store as a business that should be built according to market forces and not something built by a government entity. Tax incentives, TIFF's, zoning regulations, etc. if the community see's a benefit to build a particular something, might be another matter.

Also as someone who is now in the retail business, year and a half in, I find you sell what sells, or you perish. Despite what I may like or want to sell, if you put your money into it and it doesn't sell, then you quit trying to sell it and go with those items that are selling.

If there is a demand for something and there is not someone in the area selling it…. that equals opportunity knocking for someone to make money. It is interesting that in similar types of neighborhoods in our city, similar design and housing stock, similar socio-economic class and poverty, that I see very different responses to these "food desert" issues. In the predominantly hispanic areas one can see food trucks, and I never see them in predominantly black areas… unless they are run by hispanics. Also you find small, locally run, grocery stores, often with a surprising amount of produce, in the hispanic areas, but then don't see a similar thing in the mostly black areas of town, that again have similar design and socio-economic levels.

Another possible example of "they sell what sells" is there is a McDonalds that is convenient to my trip downtown that I sometimes go to, and another one in a wealthier part of town that I sometimes go to when I work there. I usually order the same thing "grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo and an iced tea, unsweetened". Actually quite tasty and a fairly healthy option. Never have a problem ordering that in the wealthier area, but in the poorer area, I am constantly asked at the drive thru to pull off to the side and they will bring me my food shortly, and often told they do not have unsweetened tea would I like sweetened tea instead. Finally asked why one time and they told me that it was because people rarely order unsweetened tea, and that they have to go to the back and get the grilled chicken because people don't often order that either. Couple of times I have driven off to find that I have sweetened tea and the breaded chicken sandwich with mayo lol. Definitely NOT a healthy option. Purely anecdotal I know, but interesting regardless.

As for urban design sometimes being an impediment to the poor, I agree. It's been very frustrating to watch a certain poor, food desert, area of our city that has been targeted as one to incentivise with new redevelopment. Everything new that has gone in around this one corner has been auto centric… in an area with one of the lowest ratios of car ownership and highest percentage of people using transit! A health clinic was put in nearby and it was set far back from the road and surrounded by large parking lots. A new grocery store was built, yes given special financing and tax incentives by the city to go in, again, it was put far back from the corner with parking in front. Sadly the store went out of business. Right across from that a nice looking strip mall went in having special assistance from the city and other sources, again, instead of being up to the sidewalk and pedestrian friendly it was a typical, auto centric design with a parking lot in front, large drainage ditch/grassy berm in front of that, then the street. Even the people in the black community seemed to not realize the folly of this for they would be on TV all excited about getting this new shopping center and the jobs it would bring and opportunity it would bring to local business owners to be there, etc. But not a peep about how awful the "un-pedestrian friendly" design was from anyone. They were excited to be getting a strip mall that looked just like the ones in the wealthier parts of town.

There were numerous new developments around this intersection. I kept watching in frustration as each, hard fought to materialize, project came to fruition. Frustration because of the missed opportunity to create a pedestrian/transit friendly, truly desirable and something to be proud of, development, instead became a blah, struggling, same ol same ol development. Other areas of town that are considered to be some of the "hottest" and most desirable ones are those that have a small strip of pedestrian friendly core (our Cherry Street and Brookside areas). Why someone in the city and development community, and the community at large in which all these new developments were going in, wanted a same ol same ol, auto centric development instead of what could have become something to be proud of and far more useful to that community, I don't for the life of me know. Frankly I think it was because of ignorance. The people who live nearby aren't going to enjoy walking to it, and those who take transit to the area will now find they are in a place that is not a pedestrian friendly one to get from one place to the next, to do various errands in.
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Old Posted Mar 17, 2014, 3:23 PM
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This is a fairly comprehensive article and describes the situation for many urban poor in Atlanta quite well. It should be noted that Atlanta also has some huge and comprehensive farmer's markets where thousands or people, rich and poor shop, notably Dekalb Int. Farmer's Market. But it is quite correct that many of these can only be reached by car or public transit. Density is one issue; the other is that in much of America the "local" neighborhood market has disappeared. In the mid century in the US, even in small towns there would be a small, but fairly comprehensive, food store (often run by a butcher or a green grocer) within a few minutes of walking, and quite often they would deliver directly to your house for a little fee. That pattern largely disappeared in the last quarter century.
Food stores are just one particular example; you could write the same story about dry clearers, shoe repair shops, hardware stores, photo shops, movie theaters, etc.

Neighborhood is just a concept and in some cities it is defined by the car. The real question is whether this pattern of growth and access to goods has essentially redefined the experience of poverty for those who are poor?
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Old Posted Mar 17, 2014, 10:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WilliamTheArtist View Post
This comment was interesting… "why can we build multimillion-dollar highway systems and multibillion-dollar stadiums, but not more grocery stores? If we can build a museum dedicated to a soft drink and one that celebrates college football and another that trumpets civil rights, can't we help our neighbours with what seems to be a most essential and basic right: putting an affordable and healthy dinner on the table?"

Seems to suggest that grocery stores should now be built by the government in a similar manner as highway systems?
Generally I would think most people would think of a grocery store as a business that should be built according to market forces and not something built by a government entity. Tax incentives, TIFF's, zoning regulations, etc. if the community see's a benefit to build a particular something, might be another matter.

Also as someone who is now in the retail business, year and a half in, I find you sell what sells, or you perish. Despite what I may like or want to sell, if you put your money into it and it doesn't sell, then you quit trying to sell it and go with those items that are selling.

If there is a demand for something and there is not someone in the area selling it…. that equals opportunity knocking for someone to make money. It is interesting that in similar types of neighborhoods in our city, similar design and housing stock, similar socio-economic class and poverty, that I see very different responses to these "food desert" issues. In the predominantly hispanic areas one can see food trucks, and I never see them in predominantly black areas… unless they are run by hispanics. Also you find small, locally run, grocery stores, often with a surprising amount of produce, in the hispanic areas, but then don't see a similar thing in the mostly black areas of town, that again have similar design and socio-economic levels.

Another possible example of "they sell what sells" is there is a McDonalds that is convenient to my trip downtown that I sometimes go to, and another one in a wealthier part of town that I sometimes go to when I work there. I usually order the same thing "grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo and an iced tea, unsweetened". Actually quite tasty and a fairly healthy option. Never have a problem ordering that in the wealthier area, but in the poorer area, I am constantly asked at the drive thru to pull off to the side and they will bring me my food shortly, and often told they do not have unsweetened tea would I like sweetened tea instead. Finally asked why one time and they told me that it was because people rarely order unsweetened tea, and that they have to go to the back and get the grilled chicken because people don't often order that either. Couple of times I have driven off to find that I have sweetened tea and the breaded chicken sandwich with mayo lol. Definitely NOT a healthy option. Purely anecdotal I know, but interesting regardless.

As for urban design sometimes being an impediment to the poor, I agree. It's been very frustrating to watch a certain poor, food desert, area of our city that has been targeted as one to incentivise with new redevelopment. Everything new that has gone in around this one corner has been auto centric… in an area with one of the lowest ratios of car ownership and highest percentage of people using transit! A health clinic was put in nearby and it was set far back from the road and surrounded by large parking lots. A new grocery store was built, yes given special financing and tax incentives by the city to go in, again, it was put far back from the corner with parking in front. Sadly the store went out of business. Right across from that a nice looking strip mall went in having special assistance from the city and other sources, again, instead of being up to the sidewalk and pedestrian friendly it was a typical, auto centric design with a parking lot in front, large drainage ditch/grassy berm in front of that, then the street. Even the people in the black community seemed to not realize the folly of this for they would be on TV all excited about getting this new shopping center and the jobs it would bring and opportunity it would bring to local business owners to be there, etc. But not a peep about how awful the "un-pedestrian friendly" design was from anyone. They were excited to be getting a strip mall that looked just like the ones in the wealthier parts of town.

There were numerous new developments around this intersection. I kept watching in frustration as each, hard fought to materialize, project came to fruition. Frustration because of the missed opportunity to create a pedestrian/transit friendly, truly desirable and something to be proud of, development, instead became a blah, struggling, same ol same ol development. Other areas of town that are considered to be some of the "hottest" and most desirable ones are those that have a small strip of pedestrian friendly core (our Cherry Street and Brookside areas). Why someone in the city and development community, and the community at large in which all these new developments were going in, wanted a same ol same ol, auto centric development instead of what could have become something to be proud of and far more useful to that community, I don't for the life of me know. Frankly I think it was because of ignorance. The people who live nearby aren't going to enjoy walking to it, and those who take transit to the area will now find they are in a place that is not a pedestrian friendly one to get from one place to the next, to do various errands in.
I'm tired of the myth of the "free market" that we all must bow down to and allow to govern our lives. There is no free market. Sprawling development is the result of massive subsidies to oil and gas companies and developers. Everything in society is the result of choices and when powerful interests get to decide, everyone else gets screwed. Maybe we could take all the public money we're giving the untouchable mafia bosses who run the financial system and build these people publicly run grocery stores. It sure would be money better spent.

When it comes to Wall Street bonuses we must honor contracts, but when it comes to honoring pension obligations contracts don't matter. The "invisible hand" is really the hand of the rich taking money out of the pockets of the rest of us.
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 12:52 AM
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What is stopping some forward-thinking residents of these food deserts from starting a bodega or something similar?
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 5:04 AM
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Residents may be poor and transient and the kind of person who has the money and interest in local issues would move out or invest in something else.

My idea for this problem would be some kind of mobile store or super duper vending machine, like a bookmobile for good food. The civic group or government would pay to get it built but then when it's not being used in needy areas it would earn profit at big events selling something more in demand. I don't know how these things work, but perhaps you could license the design and partner with the builder to get money too.

Last edited by llamaorama; Mar 18, 2014 at 5:14 AM.
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 5:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrskyline View Post
I'm tired of the myth of the "free market" that we all must bow down to and allow to govern our lives. There is no free market. Sprawling development is the result of massive subsidies to oil and gas companies and developers. Everything in society is the result of choices and when powerful interests get to decide, everyone else gets screwed. Maybe we could take all the public money we're giving the untouchable mafia bosses who run the financial system and build these people publicly run grocery stores. It sure would be money better spent.

When it comes to Wall Street bonuses we must honor contracts, but when it comes to honoring pension obligations contracts don't matter. The "invisible hand" is really the hand of the rich taking money out of the pockets of the rest of us.
Well said Mr. This is so obvious not sure why the masses haven't caught on yet...
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 6:00 AM
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Originally Posted by dc_denizen View Post
What is stopping some forward-thinking residents of these food deserts from starting a bodega or something similar?
There are actually quite a few corner stores/bodegas in the neighborhoods they are probably including in this. There is also access via public transit from just about all of the inner-city to any possible ingredient you could ever imagine.

This study sounds suspect to me in regards to our particular situation here...
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 3:20 PM
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There are lots of valid approaches to this problem of lack of convenient access to services including food in areas of poverty. But, I would reiterate, that these are not issues of food and services. As others have pointed out here, the underlying problems are much more systemic and relate to general issues of poverty and differential wealth distribution in our country. in essence, adding a few grocers here and there, or food trucks, are just band aids for the more generic problems of poverty and inequity. In my area of expertise, medicine and public health, the difference in health outcomes between the rich and poor in the US is astonishing and pathetic and mirrors the situation described about food access. These issues have to be addressed at multiple levels, social, cultural and political. The problems are manifested in urban areas like Atlanta and in other cities, but they are not unique to cities and in my view individual cities can only make limited changes to these generic problems. Community groups and locals can make a difference, albeit rather limited.
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 3:23 PM
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A comment following the article:

http://discussion.theguardian.com/co...alink/33200239
Quote:
I live in a predominantly black urban area in the US. There is a large grocery store within walking distance, but I can no longer shop there. All of the produce is unripe. Any fruit you can imagine, looks good but has no sugar. I am vegan.

Every time I check out, I have all fruits and vegetables and the people in front of and behind me have bologna, white bread, mayo, sausages, pork, mac and cheese, ready to eat fried chicken and fish and frozen food. They only buy potatoes and onions for produce.

I asked a manager why they don't carry a higher grade of fruits and they said "You need to understand the market you are in. They will rot on the shelves". So now I am driving 5 miles past the grocer a block away from me to get quality produce, and frankly if they went out of business, I really wouldn't mind.

That is how this problem gets created.
Let's look at other places like London, which also has inequality:

Quote:
You've only got to look at London to see this - plenty of deprived areas where you can still go to a local shop and buy all sorts of weird and wonderful fruit & veg pretty much 24hours a day (in amongst the fast-food shops of course though).
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 4:04 PM
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^ so, what are you trying to say...
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 4:31 PM
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The bottom line for grocery stores is they are a low-margin business highly dependent on internal cross-subsidies and have little or no pricing power.

The consumers who buy the higher priced goods probably also have a car and will happily drive to Costco or Wal-Mart or where-ever to save some money. The captive market that is going to buy white bread and kraft dinner can't keep the lights on.
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 4:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrskyline View Post
I'm tired of the myth of the "free market" that we all must bow down to and allow to govern our lives. There is no free market. Sprawling development is the result of massive subsidies to oil and gas companies and developers. Everything in society is the result of choices and when powerful interests get to decide, everyone else gets screwed. Maybe we could take all the public money we're giving the untouchable mafia bosses who run the financial system and build these people publicly run grocery stores. It sure would be money better spent.

When it comes to Wall Street bonuses we must honor contracts, but when it comes to honoring pension obligations contracts don't matter. The "invisible hand" is really the hand of the rich taking money out of the pockets of the rest of us.
What "subsidies" to developers are you talking about? My city offers subsidies to build residential units downtown. Those have been very popular, but aside from MUD reimbursements I have never seen any of these mysterious sprawl subsidies.
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 4:56 PM
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Originally Posted by dc_denizen View Post
What is stopping some forward-thinking residents of these food deserts from starting a bodega or something similar?

I imagine that it's the same reason that kids often don't start lemonade stands. You need a permit for that and permits are expensive. I don't know why some people are whining about the free market. We don't have a (completely) free market. Opening a food store isn't free. If the authorities found out that you were selling food to your neighborhood without a permit or permission or a license or whatever you need they would shut you down so fast it would make your head spin. Lots of these arguments about the rich stealing from the poor and free market conspiracies were very captivating when I was ripping bong hits as a college freshman and thought I knew everything. But markets and wealth distribution are not zero sum. And as ukw pointed out above, grocers spend a great deal of time studying what sells in their stores. It's their jobs to know that. They don't buy what doesn't sell. Fresh organic produce is a luxury in big cities and it priced as such.
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 5:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WilliamTheArtist View Post
This comment was interesting… "why can we build multimillion-dollar highway systems and multibillion-dollar stadiums, but not more grocery stores? If we can build a museum dedicated to a soft drink and one that celebrates college football and another that trumpets civil rights, can't we help our neighbours with what seems to be a most essential and basic right: putting an affordable and healthy dinner on the table?"

Seems to suggest that grocery stores should now be built by the government in a similar manner as highway systems?
Generally I would think most people would think of a grocery store as a business that should be built according to market forces and not something built by a government entity. Tax incentives, TIFF's, zoning regulations, etc. if the community see's a benefit to build a particular something, might be another matter.

Also as someone who is now in the retail business, year and a half in, I find you sell what sells, or you perish. Despite what I may like or want to sell, if you put your money into it and it doesn't sell, then you quit trying to sell it and go with those items that are selling.

If there is a demand for something and there is not someone in the area selling it…. that equals opportunity knocking for someone to make money. It is interesting that in similar types of neighborhoods in our city, similar design and housing stock, similar socio-economic class and poverty, that I see very different responses to these "food desert" issues. In the predominantly hispanic areas one can see food trucks, and I never see them in predominantly black areas… unless they are run by hispanics. Also you find small, locally run, grocery stores, often with a surprising amount of produce, in the hispanic areas, but then don't see a similar thing in the mostly black areas of town, that again have similar design and socio-economic levels.

Another possible example of "they sell what sells" is there is a McDonalds that is convenient to my trip downtown that I sometimes go to, and another one in a wealthier part of town that I sometimes go to when I work there. I usually order the same thing "grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo and an iced tea, unsweetened". Actually quite tasty and a fairly healthy option. Never have a problem ordering that in the wealthier area, but in the poorer area, I am constantly asked at the drive thru to pull off to the side and they will bring me my food shortly, and often told they do not have unsweetened tea would I like sweetened tea instead. Finally asked why one time and they told me that it was because people rarely order unsweetened tea, and that they have to go to the back and get the grilled chicken because people don't often order that either. Couple of times I have driven off to find that I have sweetened tea and the breaded chicken sandwich with mayo lol. Definitely NOT a healthy option. Purely anecdotal I know, but interesting regardless.

As for urban design sometimes being an impediment to the poor, I agree. It's been very frustrating to watch a certain poor, food desert, area of our city that has been targeted as one to incentivise with new redevelopment. Everything new that has gone in around this one corner has been auto centric… in an area with one of the lowest ratios of car ownership and highest percentage of people using transit! A health clinic was put in nearby and it was set far back from the road and surrounded by large parking lots. A new grocery store was built, yes given special financing and tax incentives by the city to go in, again, it was put far back from the corner with parking in front. Sadly the store went out of business. Right across from that a nice looking strip mall went in having special assistance from the city and other sources, again, instead of being up to the sidewalk and pedestrian friendly it was a typical, auto centric design with a parking lot in front, large drainage ditch/grassy berm in front of that, then the street. Even the people in the black community seemed to not realize the folly of this for they would be on TV all excited about getting this new shopping center and the jobs it would bring and opportunity it would bring to local business owners to be there, etc. But not a peep about how awful the "un-pedestrian friendly" design was from anyone. They were excited to be getting a strip mall that looked just like the ones in the wealthier parts of town.

There were numerous new developments around this intersection. I kept watching in frustration as each, hard fought to materialize, project came to fruition. Frustration because of the missed opportunity to create a pedestrian/transit friendly, truly desirable and something to be proud of, development, instead became a blah, struggling, same ol same ol development. Other areas of town that are considered to be some of the "hottest" and most desirable ones are those that have a small strip of pedestrian friendly core (our Cherry Street and Brookside areas). Why someone in the city and development community, and the community at large in which all these new developments were going in, wanted a same ol same ol, auto centric development instead of what could have become something to be proud of and far more useful to that community, I don't for the life of me know. Frankly I think it was because of ignorance. The people who live nearby aren't going to enjoy walking to it, and those who take transit to the area will now find they are in a place that is not a pedestrian friendly one to get from one place to the next, to do various errands in.
I'm on your side, but one could argue that if the government is going to give out so many food stamps, that the government might as well open up a "store" and give the food away. It wouldn't be much unlike a food bank. Then again, a government food bank is not most ideal for the poor anyway.
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 5:22 PM
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I imagine that it's the same reason that kids often don't start lemonade stands. You need a permit for that and permits are expensive.
Not to mention the cost of inventory, rent, etc. The permit is just a small portion of the overall cost for opening a small business. I'm not sure why you mention that one piece and not the others. The fact is that it takes a LOT of money to open a business. The term food desert typically refers to an area that is relatively poor.
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 5:24 PM
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How many people who opposed that Wal-Mart, the nation's largest grocer, in Chicago, also are worried about the food desert in Chicago?
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 7:37 PM
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What "subsidies" to developers are you talking about? My city offers subsidies to build residential units downtown. Those have been very popular, but aside from MUD reimbursements I have never seen any of these mysterious sprawl subsidies.
Read up on how highways have been funded vs. how transit has been funded, particularly in past decades. Also the GI Bill and redlining. That's just a start, but pretty soon it'll be clear.
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Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 9:37 PM
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Originally Posted by dc_denizen View Post
What is stopping some forward-thinking residents of these food deserts from starting a bodega or something similar?
Bodegas and corner markets/convenience stores exist throughout the poorer sections of Atlanta. I'm not sure where this article is coming from...but it's not reality.

An eerily similar piece appeared in a local newspaper two years ago: http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/...s-food-deserts. It's kind of old news.

Last edited by TarHeelJ; Mar 18, 2014 at 10:01 PM.
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  #20  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2014, 9:46 PM
TarHeelJ TarHeelJ is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 1,998
Quote:
Originally Posted by atlantaguy View Post
There are actually quite a few corner stores/bodegas in the neighborhoods they are probably including in this. There is also access via public transit from just about all of the inner-city to any possible ingredient you could ever imagine.

This study sounds suspect to me in regards to our particular situation here...
Agreed...very suspect, especially considering this information came out two years ago and the Saporta Report (http://saportareport.com/blog/2013/0...federal-grant/) published an article last year regarding Atlanta's solution to the issue by way of a $30 million grant from the New Markets Tax Credit Program.

Last edited by TarHeelJ; Mar 18, 2014 at 11:45 PM.
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