With all the talk of food deserts, you might think you're safe since you have nearby grocery stores, large ones with real produce sections.
But what happens if you lose your grocery store?
Some folks in the Chicagoland area are running into this scenario on Saturday as Safeway is abandoning the Dominick's stores. They are willing to sell the stores, but if they don't get sold, they close.
If you read last week's edition of What's Tempting, this is the end result of the 50% grocery store discount.
Safeway, which hadn't run the Dominick's all that well during its reign, announced abruptly on October 18 that the stores would close on December 28 unless they were bought. Not much time to find a new owner, though Jewel, Dominick's primary rival, bought 4 locations and Mariano's, a up and coming chain started by a former Dominick's employee, bought 11 locations. Whole Foods might buy 7 locations. This still leaves a lot of neighborhoods that will lose a major grocery store in a matter of days.
These stores are in poor and middle-class neighborhoods. They are neighborhoods that supported the Dominck's stores; they aren't closing because they were bad locations.
Previous coverage: What's Tempting: 50% off groceries
When I wrote about food deserts that had a definition of a major grocery store within ½ mile, I noted that I had a Dominick's ⅝ of a mile away. Well, that store will close on December 28. Perhaps, maybe, some company will take over that space. But there will be residents that will have to travel further to get groceries.
The Dominick's that is 1½ miles away is being converted to a Mariano's. The transition time will be about 45 days. Winter is not the best time to be without a major grocery store, but there is a nearby Jewel to that location.
When Dominick's upgraded its stores, Safeway choose to rehaul both locations at the same time. If you rely purely on large grocery stores, you were hurting short-term in my neighborhood.
In a better economy, a grocery store chain would jump for a chance to enter the 3rd largest market in the country. Already established stores that are set up to be a grocery store would save a company a lot of start-up money. Heck, a group could even take off the name of Dominick's and run it better than Safeway.
In the current economy, Jewel, the dominant market leader in Chicago, is owned by a venture capital firm, Cerebus Capital Management.
That could have been done with a bit more time than Safeway allowed. But no chain is going to jump in and save the Dominick's chain.
Individual neighborhoods could rush in and take off a location, but running a major grocery store is a challenge. One Chicago neighborhood is looking into a food co-op as a solution. But finding a more viable space and transitioning to a local store will still leave the neighborhood in a bad scenario — and that is if the plan goes through.
Major grocery stores are supposed to the the cure-all for food deserts. And their presence in a neighborhood makes a positive impact. However, neighborhoods need to be aware that those stores could disappear, decisions made by people who have never set foot in your local store.
A variety of options is the best scenario to reduce or eliminate food deserts.