Food Deserts in D.C. | Let’s Talk | NPR

Food Deserts in D.C. | Let’s Talk | NPR

I forgot the bag! This is Toni Lawson. She lives in the Southeast part of Washington, D.C. — a predominantly poor neighborhood. I forgot the bag. Your bag? Yeah. Do you want to go grab it? Yeah. ‘Cause I don’t have any money to buy bags. If, like Toni, you live in a lower-income community, have no access to a vehicle and live more than a half a mile away from the grocery store … you live in a food desert. I’m trying not to miss the bus. Toni retired from a career in the insurance industry 10 years ago, and receives food stamps on the 6th of every month. Ohhhhh! I don’t think this was an accident, not to build grocery stores in this area, because of the people here. It’s not just about black people; it’s about poor people. Toni is one of more than 23 1/2 million Americans who live in a neighborhood which the USDA calls a food desert. That means they have limited access to healthy, fresh and affordable food. For Toni, getting groceries requires traveling 2 miles, with the help of two buses. It takes 40 minutes each way. It’s a struggle to get there, especially when you’re 71 and have to carry a week’s worth of groceries back home without a car. In Washington, more than 80 percent of food deserts are located in the neighborhoods with the highest poverty rates, and where mostly black residents live. In whiter and wealthier parts of town, there are plenty of big-box grocery stores and independently owned supermarkets. But in Southeast D.C., leading chains don’t feel like there’s enough money to be made in those poorer neighborhoods. The higher rate of crime in Southeast is another deterrent. So if you want to buy food in Southeast D.C., you generally have to get fast food or go to a convenience store. That leaves 150,000 people in the area in a food desert. Now we’re calling it what it is, food apartheid. It’s something that’s planned. A desert is natural. It’s manufactured by the planet. This is something that’s planned. And it’s obvious. Toni buys her food from multiple grocery stores, searching for the best deals. Here she is at Giant — her closest grocery
store — trying to find some staples on sale. There’s not a lot of places in the area where I live that I can go and buy food. What I do is I buy my bulk when I get my stamps. I run all over the city. Even though the Giant is here, I don’t patronize the Giant very often because it’s expensive. So I’m running all over the city. Toni is tired of traveling across the city, hunting for food. She wants more healthy food options for everyone in the neighborhood, so she’s training to be a community advocate, pressing the D.C. government to provide incentives that will attract more grocery stores to come here. Her goal is simple: I’ve been in Ward 8 [for] 21 years and we have not had a full-service supermarket for that entire time. There’s always been a break. In my area, I want to see more places for people to shop. For NPR, I’m Sasha-Ann Simons, in Washington.

42 thoughts on “Food Deserts in D.C. | Let’s Talk | NPR

  1. I was enjoying this short informative video until you brought race into it. It is suddenly white people's responsibility and fault that there are no convenience stores in the area? Just fuck off.. why aren't the blacks opening stores in the area then?

    The lady says it's OBVIOUS that this is planned? How? By whom? Where's the evidence? Anybody can open a store in the area, if they can't; they blame your liberal local government, not white people who live miles away and have zero influence over who opens what stores in what area.. give me a fucking break.

  2. American University used to have a food policy class and we studied this exact issue in DC. And we studied the policy of raw milk, the large waiting lists for community gardens, and farmers rights all in DC. It's cool to see others becoming aware of this issue thru such a large source as NPR.

  3. No grocery store within 1/2 mile is considered a food desert? That's only a 10 minute walk or 5 minute bike ride… Definitely blown out of proportion.

  4. At least Washington DC has a bus system. For many food deserts around North America, especially in medium-sized cities, there are limited to no public transportation options.

  5. Somehow ALL those business people who want to make a profit won't do so with food? SOmehow they won't open a store in a "food dessert"? Supply and Demand! IF THERE REALLY WAS A DEMAND IN THESE FOOD DESSERTS THEN THE BUSINESSES WOULD OPEN UP. WHen grocery stores do open up the people DO NOT BUY!

    "Fresh food" is NOT purchased in these locations. THAT IS WHY THERE AREN"T ANY GROCERY STORES!

    Use consistent thinking, are corporations greedy and will do anything for a nickel? Are there all these hungry people with money who cannot get food? Common critical thinking, please.

  6. I've never seen anything so astonishing.
    I walk three to five miles a day without even trying.
    Acting as though such distances presented an insurmountable obstacle is merely the pretense of victimhood.

  7. but please don't just say it's a race thing , because that's total bs. I live in the deep south and their are plenty of white and black folks stranded in a food desert. we grow a lot of our food. also business isn't going to come to an area if there is no profit. it's about the choices people make during their life and things that happened to them . but it's not about black or white! ok? ok!

  8. Firstly if entrepreneurs are scared of their neighborhood is their fault, moreover half a mile is quite easy to walk or they could share a car, maybe 3/4 household could buy a car and use it to go shopping together… I don't this is a government problem

  9. Wow. My nearest grocery chain is only a block away. I can't imagine having to commute so far. If I really crave something I just walk, buy it and make it home in 10-15min. It really makes me put some of my worries in perspective.

  10. Before watching the video I had to comment because I can understand this. I took my mom to the DMV area and there were no grocery stores and restaraunts for MILESSS! I live in Dallas Tx and whether you are poor or rich, theres plenty of food, restaraunts and grocery stores. We were so annoyed at how far we had to go for everyday stores. Its really pathetic and makes no sense. Next time we go, we know where NOT to go. Geeze! This needs to change. Hope you're reading this city council in the DMV area.

  11. Their communities are NOT so poor that they cannot have grocery stores on most streets of poor neighbourhoods. This is Washington DC. This is not suburbia.

  12. Don't be surprised if McDonalds and other unhealthy food giants lobby local officials behind the scenes to discourage healthy food stores. Bad for business.

  13. These people can just leave their neighborhood and go to a grocery store. Do they spend their entire life in their own neighborhood and never see the rest of civilization or something? This is stupid propaganda. Stop making excuses for black people and blaming their problems on white people.

  14. I don't talk about the person portrayed the in movie but just in general; For a healthy person walking 0.5 miles (0.8km) should be doable. That's about 15-20 minutes per way.

  15. I wanted to like this video but in the first like 2 minutes I already can't beacause you ruin the point of this video. Saying a food desert is "no grocery store in 1/2 a mile." You can walk there in 10 minutes. The closet grocery store to me is 2 miles. Am I in a food desert? No.

  16. What crap. I'm a vegan, and I make a point of going to dollar stores to by food. There are whole beans, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, wonderful bags of frozen vegetables, and much more for a fraction of what it costs in large groceries, and I get this all at city stores. This food desert crap is just another leftist boogyman that is based on lies and media manipulation. Cites, unfortunately, are dominated by leftists who don't really give a damn about people, all they care about is power, money, and robbing those who produce to give to those who don't for votes. NPR should be defunded. Government controls don't help people, they create the problems.

  17. Good luck getting more stores in these areas when shoplifting is a way of life. In the worst cases, kids bum rush a shore and wipe it clean and the owner who tried to provide a service in this food dessert just lost a months worth of profits. Can’t pay your bills to stay in business if this happens. Thank your kids.

    Food apartheid? She is correct, it is planned. People don’t go into business planning to lose money.

  18. Of course when you arbitrarily include low-income as part of the definition of a food desert for purely ideological reasons, you'll find it matches low-income areas. It's a manufactured result, a bit of propaganda which NPR is spreading here.
    Two miles is not that far. It's a leisurely one-hour walk. Any able-bodied person should be very capable of this. It's unfortunate that a 70-year-old woman has no younger family or friends to do her shopping for her, but that's beside the point.
    This woman lives in a nice, clean apartment and gets high-quality food – all for free! She then accuses those paying for this of some dehumanizing racist conspiracy against her! And NPR spreads this view in a sympathetic light without any qualification! What a joke!
    These neighborhoods don't have proper grocery stores with fresh produce because the locals rob and vandalize such stores and choose to eat junk food over healthy food, even when the junk food is more expensive. There are poor neighborhoods of immigrant communities from East Asia and elsewhere that have plenty of fresh produce.
    Bribing and forcing grocery stores into these neighborhoods is not going to get the locals to start eating broccoli instead of chips and soda. This is a delusional fantasy concocted by those who haven't actually seen the people they pretend to be so concerned about.

  19. Years ago, I spoke with the son of a supermarket owner. He spoke about owning a supermarket in the black community and how they had to fight everyday because people would steal. I know this isn't probably the case with most black neighborhoods, but, this is the perception for supermarket owners. Nobody wants to invest in an area they perceive will bring low profits and high crime.

  20. Shopping for food or just about anything else is concentrated along busy streets. Where you find fast food you also find grocery stores. There is no such thing as a food desert. If you can get to a fast food outlet you can also shop at a grocery store within a few blocks of that McDonalds. It's all about choices.

  21. Every city of any size with latino immigrants a latino quickly opens a store to fill the need. Poor immigtants are doing it across the country so whats the actual problem?

  22. Planned? No. It's entirely natural. Why did you move there? It was cheap. Why was it cheap? It lacks services and amenities that would drive up demand, and the price. Why is no one building supermarkets? Crime. Lack of profit. The same reason you aren't building one there.

  23. It's NOT a conspiracy. Stores that have massive theft move out. Any ghetto is going to have tons of shoplifting along with all the other crime, & the stores can't make a living with these losses. Infinite liberalism (broken, violent, kid neglecting, abusing families; vast HS dropout rates, govt handouts galore instead of self-reliance, victimology/conspiracy theories, hellish schools, massive drug dealing, crime) is the ideology of death. Until ghettos become non-liberal they'll remain as is.

  24. This is modern day "FINANCIAL AND ECONOMIC APARTHEID" by corporations and governments that fail to govern the well being of its citizens.
    When financial profits are put ahead of creating societal abundance in the lives of everyone, apartheid takes place ie. a financial and economic vacuum is created in one area for the benefit of another. It creates a win-lose situation and not a win-win situation.
    Understanding corporate finance is critical to being able to understand the reasons why this scarcity of profits thinking kills economies and eventually the corporations that feed on their own greed instead of giving to create more abundance. Finance still obeys the law of conservation of energy and other laws of physics (Bachelier, late 1800s).

    "For those who have much, more will be given. But for those who have little, even the little they do have will be taken from them." – Matthew 25:29

  25. A regular chain grocery store like Safeway can’t operate and make a profit if the majority of people in the area are on food stamps. Plus add in high crime area and theft, extra security. It’s a huge financial risk that they won’t make.

  26. I used to pend a lot of time in DC on business. Horrible horrible place to find a grocery store! GPS took me to 2 different stores and they turned out to have been torn down. 45 minutes later because of traffic I ended up getting some junk at a gas station. I started packing my own food whenever I had to go to DC.

  27. So basically you need denser and better mixed communities, way better public transport and a city that isn't build for cars. I'm from Europe and it was pretty shocking for me that I couldn't go anywhere without having a car. I grew up riding my bike or using public transport to get around the city.

  28. "It isn't just about black people, it's about poor people" – Right, so maybe it isn't about black people at all but exclusively about poverty?

  29. She's trying to walk too fast, maybe for the camera? And I'd wear some running shoes, maybe rescued from the trash, rather than good boots like that, for a "long distance" grocery run. Those shopping cart things associated with little old ladies are a Godsend, because they can hold a fuckton of groceries. On Food Stamps, I'd buy essentials to get me through the month first, stuff like oatmeal, pork chops, etc., stuff that lasts and you can buy meat and freeze it.

    Food deserts suck, but so does trying to run a market where theft is a huge thing. In my town the downtown Safeway closed and ostensibly it was because of a parking validation conflict with the building owner, but theft was huge and the place was basically ghetto as fuck.

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