Food Policy

A Factory In Food Apartheid Is Building A Grocery Store, Setting A Promising Precedent

Photo: Rrrainbow // Shutterstock

Regions of food apartheid — areas that don’t have grocery stores in a 4-mile radius — are still common in the United States. Approximately 23.5 million Americans, half of which are low-income, live in these areas.

While there have been many solutions folks have come up with to help alleviate food apartheid, one company that’s opening for business in one such region is trying a different approach: building a grocery store right next to their factory.

According to NPR, COOK Medical is planning to construct a grocery store right next to its new plant in Arlington Woods, a food apartheid neighborhood in Indianapolis. This comes after local residents brought up the need for food access, and as many large grocers who were once in the area repeatedly vacated.

The new market, called Indy Fresh, will cost COOK Medical $2.5 million. Once it’s constructed, they plan to pass ownership via a rent-to-own program to a couple of local entrepreneurs that were operating a convenience store in the neighborhood.

WFYI · WFYI Cook Medical Mixdown

COOK Medical president Pete Yonkman told NPR that building a grocery store wasn’t part of their initial factory plans until hearing from the local community. It could help provide food access to 100,000 residents within the area if successful.

What COOK Medical is doing could prove to be promising if the store is able to flourish. Having a grocery store in a community provides access to more nutritious food, increases food choice, and can even help lower food costs, as some research has shown.

Of course, many stores in the area faltered before the factory came around, so more financial resources may be needed to ensure Indy Fresh and COOK Medical are successful.

If they are, though, this could be a prime example of how a local business or factory could help a community by providing access to fresh food. Manufacturing facilities located in food apartheid regions, whether they be urban, suburban, or rural, could be boosting the community around them through a similar model.

Culture Opinion

Are Food Deserts Causing The Decline Of Home Cooking In The US?

“See in my hood, there ain’t really much to eat. Popeye’s on the corner, McDonald’s right across the street.”

The above is a line from “Grow Food,” a 2016 viral song featuring kids rapping about urban farming. Since hearing about them and sharing their story, this quote has stuck with me, especially when it comes to the conversation of food security. Having just fast food around creates the prospect of cooking at home less likely, where you can control nutrition, portion size, and price.

We hear about that when it comes to food deserts, or areas of the country where there are little to no grocery options around. But a recent infographic from Porch may showcase just how little home cooking occurs in those areas.

Photo courtesy of Porch

Above is data on the states whose populations talk the most about home cooking on social media (in this case, Instagram). Based on hashtags gathered, the three states where dinner at home is more common are New York, Hawaii, and California. Of course, these are also three of the states with the highest costs of living, as Porch notes in their piece featuring this infographic.

That got me thinking: Why are people in areas with a lower cost of living cooking at home less?

The belief has always been that home cooking is lighter on the family budget than eating out. However, there are countless editorials online arguing for both sides, with one Business Insider article suggesting that rising grocery prices and a lack of preparation time lead to more dinners from restaurants.

The grocery prices argument makes sense to me, but a lack of prep time would seem to affect the more time-rushed communities of places like New York and California. And yet, they lead the way in terms of those talking about home cooking on social media.

Perhaps, the proportion of people who home cook isn’t related to income at all. Perhaps it’s food access, or a lack thereof, that plays more of a key factor.

To see if this was the case, let’s refer to the USDA’s Food Desert Atlas. You can view screenshots of this map, which shows food deserts in the contiguous US, Alaska, and Hawaii, below. A legend is on the first image to show what the different colors mean, “LI” standing for low income and “LA” for low access.

Food deserts might be larger in size in California, but there are much fewer of them than in regions like the Southern US. In fact, California, New York, and Hawaii have fewer food deserts, while areas where home cooking was talked about less often had significantly more food deserts.

Here’s an enhanced look of the South for a clearer picture.

You can barely drive anywhere in some states without finding yourself in a food desert. Alabama and Mississippi, for example, are nearly entirely covered on the above map and had the third and fourth-lowest available data on home cooking.

Combining the Food Desert Atlas information with Porch’s infographic presents an interesting scenario. Because food access is generally lower in places with a lower cost of living, it makes sense that there are fewer food deserts in California and New York. Factoring in the social media data suggests that regular home cooking, once the standard across the US, is relegated to areas with less food deserts.

This makes sense, considering that in food deserts, your most common option for dinner is likely going to be from a fast food chain, restaurant, or from cheap, nutrient-dense foods that are likely higher in calories than a homemade meal. But does an increased concentration of food deserts in a region really mean that people there are cooking at home less?

Perhaps, though there are some flaws in the data that challenge this argument. Porch’s data, while it is per capita, may not reflect the fact that people outside of California, New York, and Hawaii simply use social media less often. There’s also the fact that both North and South Dakota, the two states where home cooking hashtags were uncovered the least, have relatively few food deserts.

The presence of food deserts may even have nothing to do with homemade meals. If families in these areas are growing food at home, then the need for grocery stores and retailers nearby is moot. That could explain the correlation with the Dakotas, but low food literacy and the modern consumer’s disconnection from our farms suggest that this may not be the case either.

So does food desert frequency really correlate to less home cooking? To answer this question, we need to look and see what’s physically going on in concentrated areas on the USDA’s map, not just on social media. Is home cooking more prevalent than Porch’s data says it is in food desert areas, or is it really all about Popeyes and McDonald’s, like it was for the kids in the viral rap?

If we’re seeing spots of the country classified as food deserts really cooking at home less, it would signify a glaring trend for the world’s largest exporter of food. How could a country instrumental in feeding the rest of the world be unable to provide enough fresh produce and groceries for its own people? How have we gotten to a point where families have to rely on calorie-rich, heavy portions from restaurants, rather than their own nutritional knowhow and culinary skills?

It’s a discussion worth having as the issue of food deserts continues to gain more attention.

Hit-Or-Miss News

Study Reveals The 20 ‘Fattest’ Cities In The U.S.

Source: WalletHub

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 70.7 percent of Americans over 20 years old were overweight or obese.

A personal finance website named Wallethub decided to chart the cities that have the “fattest” people. By analyzing the 100 most populated U.S. metro areas, they gathered data from physically inactive adults to projected obesity rates by 2030 to healthy-food access within those areas.

It’s also good to point out that a lot of the top cities on this list, such as Memphis, TN and Jackson, MS, are known to be food deserts. Cities like these don’t have easy access to healthy or wholesome food, which may be the leading cause of the rampant obesity.

A lot of the cities that deal with obesity, or have weight-related health problems on this list, seem to be from the South. In fact, the whole top-20 consists of cities in the southern U.S.

Peep the top-20 below, and the whole list of 100 on Wallethub.

The Top 10


No. 11-20

h/t brobible