Food Desert in Skyway: “the place that Seattle forgot about”

by Ramata Diebate, Got Green Social Media Communications Team

After saving the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), Got Green is taking the next step to ensure accessibility to fresh produce which will provide families in Southeast Seattle with a tool to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Got Green’s Food Access Team wants to make sure that Skyway residents have access to what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) now calls MyPlate or the “healthy plate” which replaced the food pyramid in 2011. We have been surveying residents in Skyway, which is a food desert that lacks a grocery store or produce stand within reasonable traveling distance.

Our findings have been illuminating, as many Skyway residents state,

“We feel ignored. Skyway is the place that Seattle forgot about.”

This is a situation that Walmart is trying to use to its advantage in a pretty aggressive way, and we have that Walmart has plans to try and “break into” Skyway. Anyone that is familiar with the way this major retailer uses its economic prowess to gain access to neighborhoods that may not be interested in accepting it or would not benefit from its presence knows what we are talking about.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines “food desert” as a lower-income area without access to a supermarket or large grocery store.  A supermarket is defined as a retailer with annual sales of 2 million and it must contain all the traditional food departments including fresh meat and produce, dairy products, dry and packaged goods and frozen foods.

This requirement can be met only by large national grocery stores. A smaller local grocery or produce stand does not count under the USDA guideline, but I disagree. Although this is a lovely definition for a corporate giant waiting to move into a food desert, we feel that a community-based produce stand or co-op can provide fresh, locally grown produce, leave a smaller environmental footprint, and serve as a community gathering place.

Walmart is trying to use Skyway’s food desert status to gain access to Skyway. However, Walmart’s way of supplying produce which it will sell in Skyway may add to the problem. By driving down costs of production every step of the way, it increases the odds that fruits and vegetables will be produced in ways that favor their speedy growth with chemicals. Walmart’s distribution model favors using very few suppliers and its definition of “locally grown produce” is quite misleading when considering Walmart’s business plan.  Walmart plans to have only 9% of its produce sales constitute of “locally grown produce.” And this is in all of the Walmart stores combined – not in each retail store. Obviously if they use this type of propaganda to gain access to Skyway, the majority of the produce it sells will still be imported from other states or from established suppliers with which it has a relationship.

This is why we do not see Walmart as the answer. Obviously, a produce stand or farmer’s markets would make more sense to guarantee locally grown, healthy produce. 

Studies have shown that in areas where there is access to fresh produce, obesity rates go down and overall health improves. Neighborhood environment influences health and a holistic approach to ensuring access to fresh produce will take into consideration that fresh produce is locally grown in an environmentally responsible way and in a way that takes into consideration a neighborhoods overall health.

 Join Got Green on our Skyway Food Desert Campaign!

We are going out to the Skyway community on  Saturday April 7, to survey residents.

We need volunteers!!!

Please email Tammy@gotgreen.org  or call (206) 290-5136 for more info and how to get involved!

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Vicki Loe on March 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Really good idea!

    Reply

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