Tag: food desert

Getting by in Food Deserts: Mobile Grocery Stores, Neighborhood Farms Help Residents Find Fresh Food

Roland Washington checked off the names of his neighbors who had come to buy groceries at the mobile store that twice a month visits his apartment complex near Tarrant, an area of Birmingham that has few to no options for fresh food.

The mini crowd-control task for which Washington volunteers his time is managing the people who come to take advantage of the wholesale-priced fresh produce, meat and other food provisions sold on a first come-first serve basis. He makes sure no more than a few people enter the trailer at a time.

For Washington and his neighbors, that mobile grocery store is the difference between getting fresh vegetables and fruits or not. The Corner Market, the mobile grocery store run through a program of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, is an initiative aimed at relieving the difficulties faced by people who live in food deserts. Food deserts are defined as areas where at least 500 people live more than half a mile from a full-service grocery store.

The lack of access to fresh food is a problem faced by people across the world. About 23.5 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. Nearly half of them are low-income.

Closer to home, almost 2 million people in Alabama live in food deserts, according to a 2015 report on food access by the The Food Trust. In Jefferson County, that number is 205,657.

In Birmingham, 69 percent of residents live far enough away from a grocery store to make it difficult for them to obtain fresh food, Mayor Randall Woodfin told the City Council in a meeting this spring. He said part of all nine council districts exist in a food desert.
The Corner Market and other mobile grocery stores are one way communities are trying to alleviate the difficulties for people who live in food deserts. Read more.

New Grocery Delivery Program Aims to Curb Senior Hunger

Alabama ranks poorly when it comes to food insecurity among seniors. In Jefferson County alone, more than 129,000 older adults struggle with hunger. A new grocery delivery program through the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama aims to improve seniors’ access to healthy food.

Under the program, eligible seniors will receive 30 pounds of dry goods, canned fruits and vegetables, and fresh cheese delivered to their homes each month. The program is aimed at seniors who can’t afford to buy groceries or who live in areas where it’s difficult to find healthy food. Jamie McLynn, director of partnerships at the food bank, says seniors often have to make tough decisions. Read more.

Birmingham City Council Approves Healthy Food Overlay District

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to establish a “healthy food overlay district,” designed to make healthy food options more accessible for the approximately two-thirds of the city’s population that lives within food deserts.

The healthy food overlay district will cover areas of Birmingham defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “low-access census tracts,” where “a significant number (at least 500 people) or share (at least 33%) of the population is greater than half a mile from the nearest supermarket, supercenter, or large grocery store.” The final version of the ordinance also establishes a half-mile “buffer” around the overlay district, within which restrictions on dollar stores will still apply.
Read more.

Birmingham Council Passes Healthy Food Initiative to Offer Incentives to Bring in New Grocery Stores

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve allocating $500,000 to a new “Healthy Food Initiative,” which officials said would give incentivizes for new grocery stores to move into the city.

The creation of that fund is separate from the pending Healthy Food Ordinance, which is aimed at increasing healthy food options in the city’s food deserts through measures such as limiting the expansion of dollar stores and loosening restrictions on grocers and farmers’ markets.

The two changes would work together to attract new grocery stores to the area, said Josh Carpenter, the city’s director of innovation and economic opportunity. Read more.

Birmingham Looks at Limiting Dollar Stores, Easing Restrictions on Other Food Vendors as Way to Battle Food Deserts

A new ordinance proposed by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin looks to combat the city’s food deserts by loosening regulations on farmers markets and mobile grocers, while simultaneously limiting the spread of dollar stores in low-income neighborhoods.

The proposed ordinance would establish a “healthy food overlay district” over areas of Birmingham defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “low-access census tracts,” which are areas where “a significant number (at least 500 people) or share (at least 33%) of the population is greater than half a mile from the nearest supermarket, supercenter, or large grocery store.”

According to that data, 69% of Birmingham residents live in a food desert — a figure often cited by members of the Woodfin administration as motivating the new healthy food ordinance.

The council is expected to vote next week to set a public hearing to discuss the ordinance. Read more.

Woodfin to Seek Limits on Dollar Stores as Way to Encourage Grocery Store Developments

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has announced legislation he believes would address the lack of healthy food options faced by a majority of the city’s residents.

A proposed healthy food ordinance will be officially released in coming weeks, Woodfin told the City Council on Tuesday, and will include measures to “limit the development of new dollar stores in our city… as well as open more opportunities for fresh food producers (and) lowering the overall costs for grocers.” Read more.