The Roanoke Times:
[P]oorer families without cars living in parts of Roanoke's northwest and southeast ... struggle daily to find sustenance in places called food deserts. Nearly 30 percent of Roanoke residents live in neighborhoods that share two distinctions: Most of the residents are of low income, and the nearest supermarket is more than a mile away.Pardon me while I wring out my hankie.
As Matt Chittum reported in last Sunday's edition: "When you get to the supermarket just once a month, it changes how you shop, and therefore how you eat -- and usually not to the benefit of your health."
So the poor in wallet become poor in diet, and in turn, poor in health. Which should concern you, if not for compassionate reasons then for the financial burden to society. The cycle can break.
It's unrealistic to expect supermarkets to flock to underserved areas. But there are ways to bring people more frequently to existing markets, whether through targeted weekly runs by Valley Metro, churches organizing regular shopping excursion vans or even superstores hosting cost-cutting runs.
Community leaders and neighborhood advocates, if they give this some attention, can find ways to make the end of the month no different than the first. [link]
I have a better idea. Instead of writing about the heartache, why not open up a freaking supermarket in those poor and depressed areas of Roanoke? No? Why not?
I think we all know why not.
Those areas are not inviting when it comes to business. (How those words must cut to the quick.) You think, if there were an opportunity for Wal-Mart to make a buck, it wouldn't have a super center in all parts of Roanoke? Think maybe they don't like poor people? (Ever been to the Wal-Mart in Kimball, West Virginia?) Think maybe they don't like black people? (Ever been to the Wal-Mart in Evergreen Park, IL?) (Don't forget who it is that fights to keep the world's most prolific retailer out of black neighborhoods in Chicago, New York City, and Washington D.C. It ain't white folk.)
Consider: Large parts of Roanoke can be considered "food deserts." But those same sections of town are car dealership deserts, Best Buy deserts, and, for all practical purposes, appliances, electronics, furniture, sporting goods, and soft goods deserts too. For a reason.
Make no mistake. Wal-Mart's grocery does a booming business nationwide. Including in areas where Americans are the poorest. But not in parts of Roanoke.
Why is that, do you suppose?