Friday, February 22, 2013

Where are the WHOLE FOODS?

***Before reading this post there are a few basic thing you need to know about the demographics of Washington, DC and the location of the grocery store discussed in the Washington Post article Yes! Organic Market Pulls out of Southeast***
  1. The term “East of the River” refers to the Southeast Quadrant of Washington, DC.
  2.   The majority of people living in the S.E quadrant of Washington, DC are African- American.
  3. DC’s Total Population (2012) = 630,000
  4. DC’s “East of the River” Population (2012) = 140,000
  5. Number of full service Grocery Stores in DC = 34
  6. Numbers of full service Grocery Stores “East of the River” = 3 
  7. More than 50% of DC’s population identifies as African- American.  Simple math can tell you that about ½ of DC’s African- American population lives “East of the River”, and simple math can also tell you that the grocery stores are not equally distributed throughout DC.

Two events sparked this Blog: The conversation we shared in class about Whole Foods, and a recent trip home last week.

* Southeast 1st Organic Market. Yes! Organic Market, located right off of highway 295 on Pennsylvania Ave. S.E. Photo Courtesy of GoogleMaps*
During my trip home last week I noticed that my community’s only Yes! Organic Market was no longer there.  The Yes! Organic Market was created in 2010 with hopes to bring healthier choice to residents who live “East of the River”. Distance wise, the store is about a 12 minute drive from my home, but driving is not an option because the store does not have a parking lot, and it does not help that it is located right off of the highway (and parking in the area is always impossible to find).
            The storeowner is still the same, however he decided to change the name to, ‘Healthy Gourmet Market’.  Two article in the Washington Post, “Yes! Organic Market Pulls out of Southeast” &  “Yes! Organic Market in Southeast to Remain Open Under New Name” discusses his success with his other 10 Yes! Markets in DC that are not located “East of the River”.  The owner believes several factors are to blame for his unsuccessful Southeast Organic Market:
  • Location (Located Right off of the highway there is often traffic blocking the drop off points for the store)
  • Residents (Can enough members of the Southeast community afford a healthier diet?)
  • Accessibility (There is not a parking lot!!!!!)

The points covered in both articles correlated with the Rachel Slocum's article, "Race in the Study of Food". She raised a very important question, "What difference does race make in the fields where food is grown, the places it is sold and the manner in which it is eaten?"
Unfortunately, race and accessibility are an issue with this Yes! Organic Market.  The fact that they do not have a designated parking area is a major issue.  This forces the committed customers, like my family, to transform a 12 minute family car ride into a 30+ minute public transportation ride, or during rainy days, a 20 dollar taxi ride. The taxi days suck for me, and I wonder how other families who live a greater distance than me feel.  Since the residents of the area are African- American race comes into play.  Because the Yes! Organic Market was not successful within its first 2 years of business, without incorporating any other factors a general statement such as, This community, which is located East of the River, does not shop at its community Organic market.  However, the people who are constructing such general statements are ignoring the fact that the location of this Market makes it impossible to have customers if they do not live in walking distance of the Market.  The accessibility factor is greater than the race factor in my eyes.

Fixing The Problem

Hopefully, the “failure” of Southeast first organic market doesn’t close the door on future projects, but opens the door with what can work and what will not work.
Informing the community, my family is really active within my community & I remember the hype around Yes! Coming, however I don’t recall any mention (except for the newspaper article) about its name change.  Although they changed its title in September of 2012, the actual sign outside of the market was changed just recently, recently enough that a current GoogleMap search still displays the name Yes! Organic Market.

*for a list of DC demographics click here

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