Healthy Corner Stores Fight 'Retail Redlining'

Small entrepreneurs are working to combat 'food deserts' by bringing fresh, healthy foods to communities lacking access to major grocery stores. But price continues to be a major factor in people's food choices.

September 13, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Corner Store

Andrew F. Kazmierski / Shutterstock

In an effort to fight what some are calling "retail redlining," entrepreneurs across the country are opening corner stores focused on providing fresh, healthy foods to their communities, and, in some cases, gaining institutional support. As reported by Patrice Worthy, "Washington DC recently launched a $3m initiative to bring 'new food and retailers' to the wards 4, 7 and 8 in the city."

Small business owners need support to stock healthier foods, as "[m]any small businesses like corner stores don’t stock produce because it’s highly perishable and has a small profit margin with a lot of waste." 

Despite their romanticized appeal, "[t]hese community corner stores are only a small piece of what’s needed to give more people access to healthy food." According to Ellen Vollinger, legal director and director of advocacy on behalf of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Snap/food stamps) at the Food Research and Action Center, they key is the federal SNAP program, because "[t]he biggest barrier to healthy food is price according to a June report released by the US Food and Nutrition Service." Under new rules announced by the Biden administration, average SNAP benefits "which were $121 per person before the pandemic, will rise by $36 permanently." Meanwhile, corner stores can fill a critical gap in access for underserved communities.

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