New York governor announces $30 million in funding for food deserts
Faced with the fact that 1.7 million New Yorkers live in “food deserts”—neighborhoods with limited access to grocery stores that offer fresh and nutritious foods—New York Gov. David Paterson announced a new $30 million fund for building grocery stores in underserved areas. The grants are expected to create thousands of new jobs.
What’s next: Momentum is building nationwide to address food deserts, thanks in part to First Lady Michelle Obama’s personal interest in the problem, says Brahm Ahmadi, CEO of People’s Community Market, which develops grocery stores for underserved parts of Oakland, Calif. But, he says, in reality it takes two to three times longer to build an inner-city supermarket than one elsewhere, and costs are usually 30 percent higher due to the challenges of aggregating and decontaminating urban parcels of land.
What this means for retail: Ahmadi believes underserved inner-city neighborhoods offer significant potential for natural chains looking to expand. “There are ongoing misconceptions that low-income people don’t want fresher foods,” he says. “In actuality, these consumers are increasingly concerned about issues like natural food choices, sustainability, food safety and conditions of farm workers.” Still, he suggests natural stores opening in such areas should initially offer a high percentage of conventional products. “At first, consumers won’t be familiar with the natural brands,” he says. “Retailers will need to engage customers to help change their purchasing patterns.”