Thursday, May 22, 2014

Food Desert Update

Knoxville's oldest food co-op, the Three Rivers Market (1100 N Central St. Knoxville, TN 37917), is trapped in a USDA designated food desert.  A quite large desert at that.
USDA Food Desert Atlas with inset from Google Earth
Following up from an earlier post, it looks like the easiest way to find a food desert in Knoxville, TN, is look for places that sell wholesome food at a modest price.

This co-op has been at that location since 2009 and is owned by the collective, although it traces its roots back to the 1970s:
Throughout the next two decades, the KCFC continued to increase its selection and grow its business but it had two big problems. It was not structured as an authentic cooperative and its facility was outdated and unable to serve the whole community. This meant the business was not sustainable so, in 2005, the KCFC changed its membership structure from a dues-based club to an equity-based cooperative. This change in structure signaled a new era and the former KCFC became Three Rivers Market, a genuine customer-owned food co-op. In 2009 Three Rivers Market purchased land at 1100 N. Central Street, less than 1/2 a mile from the old store, and began work on our new store. We relocated in August of 2011 and in 2012 and 2013, the community voted Three Rivers Market its Best Health Food Store/Grocery and its Best Green Business.
UPDATE: Three Rivers Market responds on Facebook (very nicely I might add) -
Three Rivers Market is not only Knoxville's oldest food co-op, its the only consumer-owned food co-op in the State of Tennessee!
(I thought I mentioned that collective aspect too, but okay)
Census tracts qualify as food deserts if they meet low income and low access threshold. They qualify as "low-access communities" based on the determination that at least 500 persons and/or at least 33% of the census tract's population live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. Our co-op is considered a small grocery store (not a large grocery store or supermarket), so the USDA, Treasury and HHS do not view us as having an impact on this designation. - Jacqueline Arthur, General Manager

Yes, I thought most of that qualification jazz was in the legend the USDA provided, and I screen captured, but more info is nice.

I responded with some info they might not have known from outside of their immediate vicinity:
Thank you! They don't count the West Knoxville Trader Joe's, Super Target, Super Walmart, or Sams Club either. Nearly all of Knoxville is designated as a food desert in one form or another. Timbercrest subdivision is hardly a low income community, but it is in there too!
Another way of looking at it is that Three Rivers Market makes the same impact, in the eyes of the USDA, as a Super Walmart and Sam's Club combined.  This image is a Knoxville, TN food desert anchored by just that combination:

We had two threads going, here is the other one:
Hi Steve Esposito. Yes! We are also in the middle of a redevelopment area and have always been located in Knoxville's federally-designated Empowerment Zone, a program which ended a few years ago. We are in the heart of Knoxville....the very best place to be! - Jacqueline Arthur, General Manager
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

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