The website Wallet Hub has ranked Richmond pretty high on a list of grocery stores per capita according
The website Wallet Hub has ranked Richmond pretty high on a list of grocery stores per capita according to a recent Style Weekly story, but a 2012 study paints a much different picture when it comes to food availability in RVA.
WalletHub says it compared the 150 most populated cities across two key dimensions, including “affordability,” and “diversity, accessibility and quality” (I think that’s actually four dimensions, but whatever, the math seems pretty loose on this topic across the board).
Essentially it seems they aggregated restaurant and grocery store reviews online and came to their own conclusions.
Richmond got 11th place overall with a score of 55.31. Portland Oregon came in first with 70.88 (for context), but something really bothered me about this rating. This list shouldn’t make any God damn sense to people who live in not-the West End because Richmond is a food desert.
You might have forgotten the term, it was used heavily a few years back to describe “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers,” according to the American Nutrition Association.
Back in 2012, the Virginia Food System Council looked at the food desert issue around the state and put Richmond’s grocery count in a different light – we’re actually home to the largest food desert in the nation.
According to the study, 1.4 million Virginians live in areas with low-access to grocery stores, and Richmond, along with Petersburg, Fredericksburg and a mess of other cities in the commonwealth are WAY past the national average for this issue. (see the table below)
For a bit more of an illustration, check out this map of grocery stores in RVA – notice the wealth of them in the West End and their almost complete absence in the North, East, and South Sides of town:
Why is this a bad thing? The study points out the lack of grocery stores, or accessibility to healthy foods, has a correlation with the availability of fast foods and junk foods.
“In many low-income communities, a lack of competition exists with respect to grocery stores and supermarkets that carry healthy and nutritious food. Many communities throughout Virginia contain only one major supermarket or large grocery store,” read the study. “Furthermore, these same communities have greater competition within the fast food and convenience store sectors, which may keep the cost of unhealthy options at a lower price.”
The table below further illustrates how frequent convenience stores and fast food spots are in RVA compared to grocery stores. That means Andy’s Hot Fries are easier to get to than Hanover tomatoes.
This leads to higher obesity rates – RVA’s at 31.3% in this study – and higher health care costs, further pushing lower income residents deeper into poverty.
For those interested, the 2012 study is a great look at how a lack of grocery stores affects a community, you can read it all here.
So the next time someone tells us we’re #1 on something, try and look outside and make sure they’re not just aggregating yelp reviews.
And heads up Style Weekly – you actually wrote about this Food Desert issue in 2013. We’re supposed to be the half-assed journalism alt-publication in town.