Food Deserts Go Non-Profit

The Lempert Report
May 12, 2023

Nonprofit grocery stores look like, according to Axios at least, they're really doing a great job in food deserts. And what was interesting to me about the story in Axios is that, and what I didn't know, when you have small grocers, local gardens and farmers' markets in food deserts, they are "ignored in traditional food desert mapping models". 

We talk about food deserts and not having a grocery store, and there's 76 counties nationwide that are without a single grocery store in them. So we can all get up in arms, supermarkets should go into these areas. We know that supermarkets that go into food deserts fail for a bunch of reasons. It's just not economically viable. But the fact that all the reports from USDA does not count small grocers, local guards, and farmers markets, that to me was a shocking and telling situation that maybe food deserts aren't nearly as bad as we've been led to believe. 

Sally: Yes, that certainly would be good news if it's not as bad as it seems. But these nonprofit grocery stores are very important to communities that are struggling. And, it's wonderful to be able to not only provide that service to people who are struggling with getting healthy, fresh food, but to also support a small business that is supporting their community and helping their community thrive. And, I think back, you've talked about it a lot that historically, supermarkets, grocery stores, originally have been the center of our communities and a very important part of how a community is doing. And so it is wonderful to have these, there's one in St. Louis, Missouri called Marsh Grocery Cooperative, and you can go and shop at this store, and if you are doing okay, then you can pay up to 20% more for something if you'd like to give, or you can pay 20% less than the price of the product if you are someone in need. 

Sally: And, I think a lot of people that can do want to help these companies, help other people and balance things out a little bit. 

Phil: Absolutely. And I think it's an important initiative, and what we're gonna do is we're gonna make sure that we get the right information out there about these small independent grocers, if you would, and farmers' markets that are in these areas that are really doing a yeoman's job.