Saturday, May 31, 2014

Did Greenways Perform a Minor Food Desert Victory in Knoxville?

Did the Knoxville Greenways Project perform a miracle in Lonsdale?

Intro: The First Lady educates us on the need for government to support big business, for the children.  Her plan is to give $400 million per year to supermarket chains, to open more supermarkets.

Now this is hard to find, the definition of a supermarket as used by the federal government.  The term is used all the time without informing the reader just how big a supermarket must be to be a supermarket:
Stores met the definition of a supermarket or large grocery store if  they reported at least $2 million in annual sales and contained all the major food departments  found in a traditional supermarket, including fresh produce, fresh meat and poultry, dairy, dry and packaged foods, and frozen foods.
Back in 2011, Metro Pulse wrote about Knoxville's food deserts.  They included this map, which is not linked back to the source, but they are honest folk so we can trust them:
Not a Drop to Eat: Twenty census tracts in the heart of Knoxville are considered food deserts by the federal government, meaning that the majority of the residents have limited income and limited access to grocery stores.
That map contains all 20 of the neighborhoods one would expect, plus a number of surprises.  The ones you would expect are Lonsdale, Beaumont, Mechanicsville, and other spots that have lower income households, government housing projects, and very few grocers.

Just over two years later, the Knoxville Food Policy Council published this map of 20 Knoxville Food Deserts.  Odd thing, they title it  Do You Live in One of Knox County’s 20 Food Deserts? but almost all of the food deserts are inside the city limits.  All of the city is inside of the county, but one would think the city should be mentioned too.

Part of the not-shaded-anymore area is Lonsdale (south portion), Beaumont, and Mechanicsville.  Of course, I was skeptical too so I checked the source, the USDA, and sure enough the maps match.  Knoxville still has 20 food deserts, but some of them moved out of areas served by supermarkets like Kings in Lonsdale:

Kings Market

1300 W Baxter Ave
Knoxville, TN 37921
I checked google maps for supermarkets in the area and Kings Market came up, along with a few others at the fringes of the area.  If there are others the people who do the licensing around here will know long before Google Maps reflects it and this could explain how Lonsdale and other long suffering communities are off the list.

However, other food deserts sprang up, like the one farthest west I examined in detail.  Here, let's count them together!

 Still 20 food deserts, just like in 2011.

Back to the miracle in Lonsdale, did Mayor Rogero's greenway projects solve the problem?  We won't know until the city government takes its collective victory lap.

If you are unfamiliar with who KnoxFood.Org (the Knoxville Food Policy Council) is, even after exploring their website, it is understandable.  They are the Knoxville-Knox County Metro Planning Commission.  They have all of the local information at hand to verify if the USDA food desert atlas is correct.  They get paid a lot of money, especially for this area, to put out information like this.  They appear to be the most modest government agency out there too, since "MPC" does not appear anyplace on their website.  They get a few comments on how awesome their website is, but you have to hunt around for where to comment too.  I still have not found where to leave a comment that will be posted, but "Steve S." and "Tim" did:
I wonder where they work?

The MPC is also the people in charge of zoning, and know at their fingertips if a licensed business is operating anywhere within the borders of Knox County and Knoxville City.  If a new crop of supermarkets has bloomed, they know it first.  If a supermarket tries to open in a food desert neighborhood, they know that first too.

So, now the food deserts have shifted from the poor neighborhoods to places where any grocer would love to operate.  I wonder what resources the MPC is going to throw at them for that?

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

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