South Bend still a food desert
Stephanie Pedicini | Thursday, February 16, 2012
The front page of the Feb. 16 issue of The Observer boasted “Whole Foods to open in fall: High-end grocer will offer more dietary options to students.” While this store will make a wonderful use of the vacant Borders building on Grape Road and a wonderful addition to the number of food options in Mishawaka, we must be conscious of who this store is for.
The headline says it pretty clearly. Notre Dame students, who typically have the economic power to be able to shop at more expensive grocery stores, will be able to enjoy a wider selection of healthy, organic products. Meanwhile, many residents of South Bend are stuck in food deserts.
Food deserts, as defined by the Center for Disease Control, are areas characterized by poor access to healthy and affordable food. As has been explained, fresh and organic foods are more expensive than less healthy, processed foods. It makes sense that Whole Foods is located in Mishawaka; it’s close to the suburbanites and the students who can afford to shop there. But Whole Foods is not the only retailer with this mentality. Other stores such as Target and Meijer have moved from west to east to capitalize on “being where the money is,” leaving even less food options for low income families and slowing South Bend’s economic development even further.
So while you are on your next shopping trip, I urge you to think about why you are driving to Mishawaka instead of into South Bend, and how your buying power affects your eating habits. And when Whole Foods opens in the fall, I hope the Notre Dame family will make a conscious effort to share these nutritional opportunities with the residents of South Bend.