The Food Deserts of Rural America

When a town doesn’t have a grocery store, it means people don’t have access to food. But grocery stores also play an essential social and economic role in rural places. Community stores are trying to fill in the void.

November 13, 2019, 1:00 PM PST

By Camille Fink


Rural Texas

Matthew Rutledge / Flickr

Jack Healy writes about the growing problem of food deserts in small towns across the country as grocery stores shut down and dollar stores proliferate. "The loss of grocery stores can feel like a cruel joke when you live surrounded by farmland. About 5 million people in rural areas have to travel 10 miles or more to buy groceries, according to the Department of Agriculture."

Some communities are responding by starting up what are referred to as "community stores," essentially co-ops that are stocked with staples but also sell locally produced products. A few states offer financial assistance, such as tax credits and loans, for small-town markets in food deserts. "But mostly, the people setting up crowd-funding sites to buy vegetable coolers and negotiating wholesale rates with huge grocery chains say they are stumbling around with little assistance and no map," says Healy.

In additional to the financial challenges, organizers say getting these operations off the ground is not easy. For one, they have to convince residents to stop shopping at Walmart and dollar stores, and they have to find wholesalers who will provide them the stock they need. But, they say, grocery stores are key to keeping these towns alive. "Their exodus has left rural towns worried about how they can hold on to families, businesses and their future if there is nowhere to buy even a banana," notes Healy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in The New York Times

Soldier Field

Phase 1 Revealed for $20 Billion Chicago Megaproject

Plans for One Central, a proposed megadevelopment that would add 22.3 million square feet of buildings to the city of Chicago, are taking shape.

October 19, 2021 - Chicago Tribune

Boston

Boston Introduces 'Maximum Parking Ratios' for Large Buildings

Large buildings with uses of all kinds will be subject to Boston's new "Maximum Parking Ratios."

October 14, 2021 - Streetsblog Mass

A person in a bright green vest with the words "Covid Marshall" patrols a street fair in Australia.

5 Tips for Planning Safe Post-Pandemic Events

As community events start move off-screen and become available to the public again, here are five ways organizers can ensure public health and safety.

October 13, 2021 - Devin Partida

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.