business news in context, analysis with attitude

The role of the supermarket in the community is underlined this week by a story in the New York Times saying that "a continuing decline in the number of neighborhood supermarkets has made it harder for millions of New Yorkers to find fresh and affordable food within walking distance of their homes, according to a recent city study … According to the food workers union, only 550 decently sized supermarkets — each occupying at least 10,000 square feet — remain in the city."

This isn't just a matter of reduced convenience, the Times notes: "The dearth of nearby supermarkets is most severe in minority and poor neighborhoods already beset by obesity, diabetes and heart disease." And the closings aren't just taking place in poor neighborhoods; affluent areas are affected as well, as high rents and tight margins force out food stores.

The story notes that at least some of these food stores are being replaced by chain drug stores that "stand to make money coming and going — first selling processed foods and sodas, then selling medicines for illnesses that could have been prevented by a better diet."

KC's View:
Not a line likely to thrill those in the drug store business.

This is an interesting story because it underlines the connections between the supermarket and the community, and between food and health. When a store closes, it doesn’t just inconvenience local residents; it can have dramatic and long-term consequences.

According to the NYC study, the city could support at least another 100 supermarkets…and the administration is considering economic incentives of various kinds of attract new stores. Which is good news, especially if these neighborhoods get good stores.

(Gee, NYC would like to have 100 supermarkets of at least 10,000 square feet that carry fresh food and offer easy access to an urban population. Sound like maybe Fresh & Easy could find an east coast home there…?)