Monday, June 27, 2011

Food Deserts in DC? No Problem, Let Walmart Handle It. Bonus: Thousands of New Jobs As Well

The United States Department of Agriculture has recently released a "Food Desert Locator," which is an interactive Internet mapping tool that pinpoints low-income neighborhoods across the United States with high concentrations of residents who have limited access to a local supermarket or large grocery store.  From the USDA's May 2, 2011 press release:

"About 10 percent of the 65,000 census tracts in the United States meet the definition of a food desert. These food desert tracts contain 13.5 million people with low access to sources of healthful food. The majority of this population—82 percent—live in urban areas. 

This new Food Desert Locator will help policy makers, community planners, researchers, and other professionals identify communities where public-private intervention can help make fresh, healthy, and affordable food more readily available to residents."   

MP: Who needs "public-private intervention" to make "fresh, healthy and affordable food more readily available" in poor neighborhoods when you have Walmart willing to do a "private intervention" by opening stores in food deserts and solving the problem?  

A case in point: The pink shaded areas on the map above show the food deserts in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  Walmart is planning to open four new stores next year in the Washington area, and two of them are in the city's food deserts (see map above).  And Walmart will not only solve the poor neighborhood's food desert problem, it will also address some other problems like bringing 1,200 new permanent jobs to the District with benefits available to full and part-time associates,  400 constructions jobs to build the  stores, and affordable $4 prescription drugs.  

Bottom Line: If you care about poor people, are concerned about food deserts, and want more Americans to have jobs, you just gotta love Walmart. For all of its ongoing efforts to eliminate food deserts and bring affordable, fresh and healthy food to poor neighborhoods across the country in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C., I hereby nominate Walmart for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. 


At 6/27/2011 9:53 PM, Blogger arbitrage789 said...

The litigation attorneys will be trying to extract money out of Walmart no matter what they do.

At 6/27/2011 10:05 PM, Blogger Evergreen Libertarian said...

It would be interesting to see if zoning laws and other land use regulation contribute to this problem.

At 6/28/2011 1:04 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

I used to love Wal-Mart. I have a major problem with them since they appear to have adopted the Soviet model.

Yes, the Soviet model...

All store stock is now done from a central location, with the local management having little or no authority on what they stock.

The net effect on EVERY local Wal-Mart has been highly unsatisfactory in two regards:

1) Most importantly, a pitifully vast increase in the amount of empty shelving. I went through our local single Super Walmart and found literally a hundred or more empty shelves, and those were all specifically outside the "seasonal" sections, which one might find empty for transitional reasons. I've been very tempted to start a web site called "The Empty Shelves of Walmart" to document this. The two other area Walmarts are similarly "unequipped" on a regular basis. Inquiring about it, I was informed that all ordering and supply are done from a central location, meaning that the most successful chain in America is now being run by a centralized collective with limited feedback from the periphery about actual needs vs. What Someone Thinks Is Needed. If that's not The Soviet Model of Economics I'm not sure what is. It also leads to issues when the central location gets its computers out of whack with regards to what's actually in the store vs. what it thinks is in the store...

2) Another example of a net result is that, here in Florida, it's almost impossible to obtain a fan in mid-winter. Because, after all, who needs fans in the middle of winter? Well, me, for one, when it was about 80 degrees in December (hardly atypical) and my old fan broke down. But they did have heaters. Lots and lots of heaters. So I went to Target.... And I NEVER go to Target. I'm reconsidering that policy, now, though.

The people who run Walmart should be taken out and shot. Not because of anything they do to the local economy, but because they've utterly lost all track of what it was that makes Walmart work in the first place.

It's only a matter of time before Walmarts begin to look exactly like K-Marts. And there's a reason why K-Marts SUCK... empty shelves and unimpressive prices.

At 6/28/2011 1:07 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

I went through with my phone's camera and took photos from the Super Walmart. If I wasn't lazy, I'd definitely set up a site, because I'd bet it's hardly local to this area.

At 6/28/2011 3:03 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"It would be interesting to see if zoning laws and other land use regulation contribute to this problem."

It's more likely the biggest factors are low income and high crime.

At 6/28/2011 4:18 AM, Blogger juandos said...

There's a reason these places are food deserts...

What would really be interesting is if the USDA would put together an interactive map showing how there used to be stores in these desert areas...

BTW where is the USDA's credibility when it comes to describing what is 'healthful and or affordable food'?

At 6/28/2011 5:40 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from OBloodyHell: "I have a major problem with them since they appear to have adopted the Soviet model."

All collectives (families, corporations, states, etc.) are little pockets of socialism trying to exist without a true pricing system. The collectives that do this well persist. The ones that don't fail (or resort to coercion and violence to try to survive).

At 6/28/2011 8:04 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

"All collectives (families, corporations, states, etc.) are little pockets of socialism trying to exist without a true pricing system"

i think you are confusing collaboration and cost sharing with socialism. (either that or your are using an overly broad definition)

At 6/28/2011 9:54 AM, Blogger Innovation rules said...

Ummmm. We pay folks at the Department of Agriculture to map supermarket locations? Wow.

I am almost afraid to ask what they might be gearing up to do with that information. Having said that, I bet any number of private firms, including Wal-Mart, would be happy to give them that information free of charge.

At 6/28/2011 10:11 AM, Blogger Michael Hoff said...

Yes, well, if you let Wal-Mart solve the problem, you eliminate the social engineers who could come up with a far less effective solution at a far greater cost. Because they're smarter than us, you see.

At 6/28/2011 11:18 AM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

If US cities would halt their outlawing of push-cart vendors, I am sure they would ply lower-income neighborhoods heavily. With good food at low prices, btw. Pretty hard to survive in free markets unless you offer something good.

Most local governments absolutely stomp on push-cart vending, so as to protect existing business classes in expensive leased brick-and-mortar space.

It is local governments who are often the most repressive and anti-business. For some reason, this is accepted as the norm.

At 6/28/2011 11:20 AM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

Re Wal-Mart:

Their stock price is the same as 10 years ago. They seem to be in the early stages of Sears-itis.

At 6/28/2011 11:52 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from moranovich: "i think you are confusing collaboration and cost sharing with socialism."

Tomato, tomato.

At 6/28/2011 12:11 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

"RE: Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart seems to be in the late stages of going private. Sam Walton's heirs now control 49% of shares vs. 38% in 2003. More stock buybacks will give Walton progeny a majority of shares, and possibly the curtailing of Wal-Mart public scrutiny.

At 6/28/2011 12:39 PM, Blogger Tom said...

I call BS on "food desert".

Look up your own address, just give the map your zip code. I'm in a "food desert" but I drive about 4 miles to a Publix, and about 5 to a Winn-Dixie.

We need a map of all food stores placed on the food desert map, to check accuracy. I bet the rate of absurd classification is high.

Wikipedia on the distance used: "Distance is measured from centroid of area an area [gibberish] (by zip code, census tract, or block) to nearest supermarket or grocery store."

This is crazy. All large zip codes or census tracts are vulnerable to get a poor score, just by virtue of their size.

Furthermore they state the absurd "Research suggests food deserts exist if consumer residence is one to ten miles away from the nearest supermarket." I'd say the opposite is true - if you're less than 10 miles from a supermarket, there is no food desert.

Food desert. To me, as credible as global warming. Close to zero.

At 6/28/2011 1:24 PM, Blogger Scott said...

This is crazy. I did a separate Google map search on one of the "food deserts," then searched nearby for "grocery." The first area I picked was surrounded with options. Many local and even ethnic options. I can't imagine what they are up to with this program, but it doesn't jibe.

At 6/28/2011 1:54 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I call BS on "food desert"."

It seems that like with so many other things, this concept allows for the creation of a great deal of busy-work for bureaucrats.

I think criteria described by Wikipedia assume you have no car, or can't afford healthy food for whatever reason.

I suppose if I have no money, I'm in a food desert when I'm in the store parking lot.

At 6/28/2011 2:18 PM, Blogger Ian Random said...


If it is so poorly run, then someone should be able to out compete them. Every time I wanted to buy an AC unit, they'd be out of stock since it was too late in the season. I was able to buy an AC unit from a retailer that specializes in computers.

At 6/28/2011 2:45 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

" If you care about poor people, are concerned about food deserts, and want more Americans to have jobs, you just gotta love Walmart"

the depends on why you care about them.

if, as so many of our leftist leaders do, you care about keeping them poor and dependent on the government so they have to keep voting for you, then you may well hate walmart.

At 6/28/2011 5:29 PM, Blogger MikeyrInKY said...

This article was excellent and thought provoking. Unfortunately, the comments included some of the worst prattle I've encountered lately. Get a life, people.

At 6/28/2011 7:49 PM, Blogger onward1 said...

several years ago an article from a magazine relayed an effort in NYC having to do with neighborhood greenhouses. They were apparently, and maybe still are, a model of cooperation AND good food.

We ALL have more going for us than any bureaucRAT can suggest, let alone PROVIDE.

The good news is we can do it.

The bad news: we don't trust ourselves.

We need to encourage the real assessment of facts and best possible solutions to employ...for STARTERS!!

Forget the political - 'you take one side... I'll take the other' posturing as intelligent exchange. This has nurtured a
thousand-fold de-generation
of our WISDOM.
AND... i'm YELLIN' at me TOO!

At 6/28/2011 8:23 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"This article was excellent and thought provoking. Unfortunately, the comments included some of the worst prattle I've encountered lately. Get a life, people."

In the future, you should probably just read the excellent original posts, and not waste your time reading the comments.

At 6/28/2011 9:12 PM, Blogger Suzdp said...

America was once a place where ingenuity and determination helped us to survive and thrive even in the toughest circumstances. Why can't we revive thoses traits to serve our needs today? Even in a large city it is possible to grow fresh fruits and vegetables all year round. Instead of political and social indoctrination why not require our schools to teach kids to grow food? Ask any large university where agriculture is taught. Growing food teaches the practical use of mathematics, reading, engineering, biology, chemistry, entomology, meteorology, architecture, hydroponics, energy and water management, social skills, self esteem, time management, etc., etc., etc. Growing our own food has become a lost skill for most of the population. Reviving it can bring a host of benefits.

At 6/28/2011 9:31 PM, Blogger thereoughttobeatest said...

Typically bad analysis for your tax dollars. For example, Hodgeman County, Kansas.

Low Access criteria: The county has one grocery store in the town of Jetmore and a population of 826. Food Desert maps indicates that only 13 of the 2,085 people in the county live within 10 miles of a grocery store.

I find this suspicious since approx 40% of the county population lives in the county seat of Jetmore. However, it's possible that Hodgeman County meets the low access criteria (> 1/3 of the population not within 10 mi radius for rural location).

Low Income criteria: Defined as the median family income for the tract does not exceed 80 percent of statewide median family income. In 2009, the gov estimated Hodgeman county median income as $42367 and state median income as $47817. Ratio is 88%. This county DOES NOT qualify as low income.

Don't ask me, but I think they can't do math and/or logic tests??

At 6/29/2011 1:31 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Growing our own food has become a lost skill for most of the population. Reviving it can bring a host of benefits."

Like what?

Making our own soap, furniture, and clothing are also lost skills for most of us. There are good reasons for that, just as there are good reasons we no longer grow our own food.

At 6/29/2011 7:26 PM, Blogger t.j. said...

The 'problem' is the way they calculate these things. The so-called 'food desert' closest to where I live is almost entirely composed of cemetaries and schools. Except for the cinemas and supermarkets, that is. I kid you not. Total 100% grade "O" B.S.

At 6/30/2011 8:55 AM, Blogger misterjosh said...

I'll chime in on the BS call. I checked out my neighborhood in Minneapolis where there is no grocery store - we're fine - probably just too wealthy. There is a neighborhood to the north where part of the desert is .6 (six tenths of a mile) from a supermarket. ???? - that's walkable even in winter.

At 7/03/2011 9:11 PM, Blogger Hoosierman said...

If they can't get food why should they get food stamps? Take everyone living in a food desert off food stamps.


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