Alliance food desert creates barriers to healthy food

Alliance – Five major grocery chains have locations in the city, but David Sheegog Jr. Other residents of the northern section of Alliance will travel more than two miles to reach the nearest store.

Chigog lived in the city for three years. He said he buys his groceries at Save A Lot on East State Street, and thinks there should be more options for people in Wards 1 and 2.

“There should always be a store in the neighborhood,” he said.

There is no shortage of groceries on State Street, as there are a few supermarkets located along one of the city’s busiest streets, such as Giant Eagle, Walmart, Marc’s and the soon-to-be Meijer. But the view of groceries in the northern part of town looks a lot different. The area hasn’t had a full-service grocery store since Sanders Markets closed three years ago.

The food desert created a barrier between the population and access to fresh produce and other food items. Many would like to see another supermarket come to the area, but one expert said it could be difficult to convince a grocery store to invest in a food desert, which leads to the effort by community organizations and churches.

What is desert food?

The USDA defines a food desert as a low-income census area where a large population has little or no access to affordable, healthy food.

The agency considers low income for a census track if its poverty rate is 20% or more or median household income is less than 80% of state or metropolitan area median household income. Meanwhile, low access is defined by a community of at least 500 residents where 33% live at least more than one mile from a supermarket or grocery store. In rural communities, the distance is 10 miles.

But Chris Post, a professor of geography at Kent State University in Stark, said the USDA’s definition of a food desert only explains distance and fails to address other barriers that prevent people from buying healthy food.

“If there’s a fence around part of the[grocery store]or if you’re forcing people to walk into the cargo area where trucks get in and out of, that’s still incredibly difficult and dangerous. So that food may be through but it’s still not really available. or easily accessible.

What leads to a food desert?

One problem that creates food deserts is that many large grocery chains choose not to open locations in lower income areas.

“The big economic factor is that most of your major grocery stores won’t invest in setting up shop in a low-income neighborhood because they’re worried they won’t get the profit they need for that unit to survive,” Post said. .

This problem is not limited to the alliance. According to the USDA, about 13.5 million people live in statistical areas with low access to fresh food.

Neighborhoods in Northern Alliance have been without a full-service grocery store since 2019. Sanders Market closed its South Union Street location at the end of 2018, citing rising operating costs, marginal performance, and vandalism.

Sander has only been open for eight months. The grocery chain took over the building through US Bankruptcy Court after Thorne’s supermarket, which previously occupied the venue, filed for federal bankruptcy in 2017.

The facility remained vacant until it was purchased by Alliance Ventures in 2020. Sun America currently leases the facility as a warehouse for commercial bakeries and food service products.

The former grocery store is located next to the city’s poorer census area. The median household income in a Census Tract 7,104 is $12,372, according to a census reporter. That’s roughly two-thirds of the median income for the rest of the alliance ($10,075) and half of Stark County ($30,168).

Major: What does Stark County supermarket, other chain stores

How did the food desert affect the alliance?

Stacie Weimer, executive director of Alliance YWCA, said the closure of Sander’s market has made it more difficult for people in the northern section of the city to get healthy food.

“When you have a lack of availability, and we’re talking about the drawbacks that come with traveling to State Street at least, you’ll definitely see people relying on gas station food because it’s what’s accessible at the time,” he said.

Post said this is a common problem found in areas without supermarkets. Many people in these communities consume foods that contain high levels of high fructose corn syrup and cheap proteins such as fast food hamburgers. This can lead to malnutrition and undernutrition, he said.

Post said dollar stores aren’t enough to supplement full-service grocery stores.

“They still lack a product aisle, and that’s one of the most important things to consider as a food vendor in these circumstances,” he said. “You should have fresh vegetables, fruits, and other whole grain options.”

Councilwoman Sheila Sherry (D-1) said many residents in the northeastern part of Alliance are struggling in the absence of a supermarket.

“It was a challenge (getting fresh food) before Sanders and he’s definitely one now,” she said.

Sherry said many people rely on food pantries and mobile grocery store programs like StarkFresh for food, but there aren’t enough resources to meet demand in the city.

“I think more efforts should be made to get someone here who can stay,” she said.

Weimer said the YWCA Alliance refers food insecure people to the Alliance Community Pantry, but some residents — especially those who live across the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Viaduct – They may have trouble getting to the store.

“If you live across the bridge, the warehouse may not be accessible either, especially if you have to travel, if you don’t have transportation to do so,” she said. “And even across the bridge, there’s not even a gas station there.”

Many Carnation City residents agreed that access to fresh food is limited in the northern part of the city.

Jason Ridgway has lived in the city for 20 years. He did his shopping at Thorne’s and later Sander Market before the grocery store closed. He said he knows there are a lot of people who depend on others to get groceries for them because they can’t go on their own.

“(The city) should try to get close to a store,” Ridgway said.

Similarly, resident Tim Stochel said there should be places closer to shop. He buys most of his food at the dollar store and occasionally takes a trip down State Street to get groceries.

He said a lot of people in the community depend on food stamps.

Joe Matzola: I’d like to see a grocery store on the north side. We are all here in the administration.

The city’s director of planning and economic development, Joe Mazzola, said city officials wanted to see a grocery store succeed in the northern part of Alliance, but it proved difficult.

“They simply don’t get the traffic stats you get on State Street,” he said.

Mazola said it can be difficult for grocers to make money due to overhead costs such as operating freezers 24 hours a day.

“If TJ Max doesn’t sell a shirt, they can discount it and get something back. A grocery store, if its inventory goes bad, that’s a total loss. They have to get rid of it,” he said.

In addition, Mazola said that a grocery store in the northern part of town will face the challenge of competing against other major state street stores. He said Alliance has a competitive grocery store scene, and any store that comes to the area will have to compete with supermarkets like Giant Eagle, Walmart and Mark’s.

“I’d like to see a grocery store on the north side,” he said. “We’ll all be here in the administration.” “But the challenges of trying to do that while making money, the level of difficulty is high.”

Alliance’s Farmers Market was located downtown for the first 10 years of its operation, giving people in the area the opportunity to buy fresh produce. But the organization moved to the West State in 2019.

“They have taken the only source of fresh vegetables to the giant eagle,” Sherry said.

Cimarron Ney-George, Alliance Farmers’ market manager, previously told the warehouse that low attendance drove the decision. She said the market’s board wanted to stay downtown, but the sellers didn’t make enough money for the market to remain viable.

The farmers’ market will operate at a new location this year: the northeast corner of State Street and Union Avenue.

Nee George said the purpose of the move was to provide better visibility and attract more shoppers and sellers. She said the board of directors hopes this new venue will be more accessible to residents because it is more centrally located than the Giant Eagle parking lot. It also has a regional Stark transit station that stops nearby, which may attract residents who use public transportation.

Resident Susan White, who has lived in Alliance since 2020, believes the market move will be beneficial to the community.

“More people can access it,” she said.

But Sherry said the market’s new location is not close enough to low-income residents who do not have access to transportation. She said she believed the market sellers would have had more success if they had stayed downtown and lowered their prices so that lower-income residents could buy their goods.

“Four people who buy some green beans can still make a profit today,” Sherry said.

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“Inspiring people to be entrepreneurs.”

Post said that many communities across the United States are trying to alleviate food deserts by growing their own fruits and vegetables.

He has worked with StarkFresh in downtown Canton for several years. He said the organization does not strive just to provide[سترك]County residents with fresh produce, but also teach them how to grow food themselves.

“They inspire people to be entrepreneurs,” Post said. “They empower people to learn how to grow their own food.”

The hope, he said, is that teaching people how to grow fruits and vegetables themselves will have a “greater impact” by helping them to overcome a shortage of fresh produce in their communities.

Sherry said she hopes to see more organizations and churches in the Alliance community join in the effort to provide fresh food to those who need it. She said it was important for everyone in the community to come forward to solve the problem.

“Some of them don’t require money, but rather take time and effort,” she said.

You can reach Paige at 330-580-8577, pmbennett@gannett.com, or on Twitter at @paigembenn.

Resources available to coalition residents in need

Supplies Community Alliance

Customers can get food from the store every two weeks. The customer must have a photo and proof of residence during the first visit. They will register by family by providing the name, date of birth, and ethnicity, along with the names, ethnicities, and dates of birth of other family members.

Eligibility requirements:

  • You must live in the 44601 zip code or the Marlington School District
  • You must meet state and federal food income guidelines.

Clients are required to re-register every July and show proof of residency at that time.

The store is located at 215 E. Market St. It is open from 4 pm to 7 pm on Mondays, from 9 am to noon on Tuesdays, and from 4 pm to 7 pm on Wednesdays.

Young Women’s Christian Alliance

The Agency’s Meals on Wheels program provides hot, nutritious meals provided by community volunteers to the homes of seniors in the community. Patrons can receive meals up to five days a week, and choices depend on nutritional needs and taste.

For more information or to register for the program, call 330-823-1840.

YWCA also offers a combined dining option for seniors and disabled residents residing in Alliance Towers. Lunch is served Monday through Thursday in the Alliance Towers dining room. Residents can register for the program by contacting the Resident Services Coordinator.

Family Empowerment Ministries

The Family Affairs Resource Center provides food to those in need on the first and second Friday of every month. Residents can call 330-913-7007 Monday through Thursday, leaving the number of people at home. They can drive to the community center at 425 E. Market St. At 6 pm the food will be brought.

wear the wild

The nonprofit organization located at 55 E Main St. Free food, clothing, hygiene and cleaning products for those who need them. There are no eligibility requirements. Hours of operation are 6 to 8 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, and 6:30 to 8:30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Emergency assistance is available outside of business hours for homeless people in the coalition area. For more information, call 330-501-8262.

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