Westside Food Desert
Food Desert: areas that lack traditional grocery stores and supermarkets, and thus lack access to affordable and healthy food.
- “Food Access and Price: A Spatial Analysis of Grocery Stores and Food Prices in the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County” by The Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies
Many of us are fortunate enough to live within a reasonable distance of several grocery stores. When we need milk, bread, or other life necessities we simply drive or walk a short distance and get what we need. It’s a luxury that many of us take for granted.
The residents of the Westside don’t have such a luxury.
Recently, the local Dollar General store, located on Grove Street, went out of business leaving many residents with no convenient access to food or toiletries. The nearest grocery store, Buehler’s Market, is located on Market Street in downtown Chattanooga. But for the elderly and disabled and all those with limited access to transportation living in the Westside, the Dollar General store was the only location that they could be sure they could get to. And now that the Dollar General has left, residents of the Westside now find themselves living in a food desert.
In fact, they won’t be the only Chattanoogans living in food deserts; instead, they’ll be joining their neighbors in South Chattanooga, Highland Park and East Chattanooga who cannot get access to the food they need to live.
In 2009, the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies issued a report centered on the plight that Chattanooga’s poorest face when it comes to finding affordable and healthy food. The report found that many of the area’s poor are often forced to do their shopping at gas stations where fresh produce is not frequently sold. Chattanooga residents living in economically insecure communities often pay more for food due to their limited options: two pounds of bananas can be bought at the typical grocery for the price of a single banana at a gas station check out.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the food that economically disadvantaged Chattanoogans do have access to is often highly unhealthy.
The Ochs Center also found that economically insecure communities often have to buy the only things available at convenience stores and gas stations (like candy, chips and soft drinks) instead of buying healthy fruits and vegetables. The long-term effects of cheap but unhealthy diets are devastating, leading to a sharp increase in the likelihood of contracting preventable diseases like diabetes and obesity, further increasing the economic hardships within our poorest communities.
Faced with this situation, Chattanooga Organized for Action is determined to ensure that residents of the Westside will have access to healthy food. We will be working throughout the next few months and meeting with area residents to determine solutions to this situation.
The public is invited to our next meeting on October 4th at 6:00 PM. We’re located at 1100 Gateway Avenue in the smaller public housing tower.
To read the Ochs Center report on the food desert problem, click here (document will require PDF reader).
To read a Chattanooga Times Free Press article about the study, click here.