They’re called food deserts. Neighborhoods without grocery stores, where the residents have little to no access to fresh produce. There are no big grocers, no cute little farmer’s markets, and folks who don’t have cars are left to piece together meals from the unhealthy selections that are their only options. While I’m used to working in these types of communities in Philadelphia where I served in the inner-city, I had no idea many areas in California faced the same issue. It’s true, though, there are rural and urban areas here in California where it’s hard to come by good quality fruits and veggies. One community in Jurupa Valley about an hour outside of Los Angeles was like that. Last week, though, a new Walmart Neighborhood Market opened up in the city of Riverside, and gave residents choices, jobs, and exceptional food at a price they can afford.
I was able to visit the Walmart Neighborhood Market (#GOWalmart) in Riverside on the night before it opened, and was really surprised at how emotional I got walking around the empty store, chatting with employees who were busy setting up. Knowing what I know about being poor, and having experienced choosing between the electricity bill and food on many occasions, I knew firsthand what a positive impact this store would have on the community. The employees were just the tip of the iceberg. One associate had been looking for employment for 3 years, and was finally given a chance to work in his own neighborhood when the store opened up. Another associate, an Assistant Store Manager, had started off with Walmart 17 years ago as a seasonal worker during the holidays, and had moved her way up. I met her in-laws, Sheri and Stan, who were eager and proud to share her story. Sheri was especially excited that she didn’t have to travel miles and miles away for fresh fruit anymore, or take her chances with the lackluster selection at the local, high priced store.
The next day, at the store’s public grand opening, local residents expressed the same appreciative sentiment. They were able to walk to the store from their home. The produce is so fresh. The food is so affordable. The Walmart Neighborhood Market is a great addition to their community. As neighbors browsed and shopped, store associates bustled about helping out whenever possible, answering questions, and making sure the store stayed clean. It felt like a neighborhood market, y’all.
It’s devastating that there are communities in this country where people have to choose between food and bills. Or that they have to travel 2 hours round trip on a bus to get groceries for their family to eat. The Walmart Neighborhood Market, in rural and urban areas, are giving folks choices. After all, isn’t that the neighborly thing to do?
Did you know about food deserts in the United States? Do you live in one? Do you have any ideas for how we can solve the problem of folks not having access to affordable, healthy food?