I've been traveling a lot this summer. It has also been an opportunity to see how food environments can be very different away from my Brooklyn homeland. I'll post some observations over the week.
Scene: Wal-Mart, Fruit and Produce Section
My mom, a senior who lives in Florida and on a budget, has been doing more and more grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, the store that most in Brooklyn vehemently oppose. (I am opposed them too, but am open to the potential benefits of better food access.) But this is the first time in her life that she has felt like she could "afford" organic and I have to say the fruit and veggies she bought there were quite fresh and good-tasting.
It kills me that Wal-mart of all places has gotten her to try organics and that they may be the best produce place for her in town. But I also know that "organic" produce in many places is just plain expensive and tends to be older because there is less turn-over of stock. My mom doesn't live in a food desert by any means. You would think, living in a place where fresh produce grows abundantly and is shipped all over the country, it would be easy to eat local. But it's not. I have no idea if there's a farmer's market anywhere in her community. So, she's voting with her dollars to buy fruits and vegetables at place like Wal-Mart that is cheap and convenient.
This same Wal-Mart also had Swiss Miss pudding packs stacked by the produce aisle for the unbeatable price of $1. How many people are just getting the pudding and no fruit or veggies at all? Probably most of them. For a family with kids, especially, it would take a lot of will-power to only buy fruit and skip the cheap snacks altogether. (I actually kept my 4 year old away from the shopping floor because I thought she'd go gaa-gaa over all the sweet snacks to choose from.)
Is Wal-mart too much of a devil's bargain? Are there better ways to improve access to good food without the "help" of retail behemoths? How can we change the dynamics to make it easier to afford the luxury of good food for everyone without a complete sell-out to other vital principles? We need to keep looking for concrete solutions.
Can Wal-Mart Save us from Food Deserts? By Adriana V., The Stir