When Samantha Pounder and Hannah Choi imagine the shelves of a corner store, they see fresh aloe and kale instead of the usual sugary, shrink-wrapped confections and salty snacks.
It’s a vision that will soon become a reality when the pair open Muki’s Market in Washington DC, one of the newest additions to a growing movement to supply big city food deserts with healthy corner stores.
“The reality is there’s a need for more fresh food options,” says Pounder, food access director of Arcadia, a local non-profit. “When there are no grocery stores within walking distance or even a reasonable driving distance that becomes a problem.”
In Boston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, San Jose, California, and Newark, New Jersey, a movement of entrepreneurs are opening similar shops to combat a practice known as “retail redlining”, when deliberate policies implemented over time create food deserts in predominantly Black and low-income neighborhoods.
Brian Lang, director of the National Campaign for Healthy Food Access at the Food Trust, said: “By failing to aggressively combat the circumstances that led to the shortage of retail, food companies and public sector developing agencies have, in essence, redlined Philadelphia’s low income communities.”
It’s a similar situation in other US cities. The US Department of Agriculture provides $3m to $5m annually to a Healthy Food Financing Program, but Lang said it is not enough. He thinks more money is needed to support programs