The Department of City Planning has released a study outlining a large portion of New Yorkers’ severe lack of access to healthy, fresh food options. DCP initiated the study because, although the City’s population rose three percent between 2000 and 2006, grocery stores in neighborhoods citywide continue to close. The study includes a Supermarket Need Index, which shows the following:

  • “Three million New Yorkers live in neighborhoods with high need for grocery stores and supermarkets. Neighborhoods such as Central and East Harlem and Washington Heights in Manhattan; Bushwick, Bedford Stuyvesant, East New York and Sunset Park in Brooklyn; Corona, Jamaica and Far Rockaway in Queens; areas of the South Bronx, Williamsbridge/Wakefield and portions of Pelham Parkway in the Bronx; and St. George and Stapleton in Staten Island show the greatest need for full-line supermarkets.
  • Three quarters of a million New Yorkers within high need neighborhoods do not have supermarkets within a comfortable walking distance (5 city blocks), making food shopping particularly problematic for households with no car. Low income households may be further adversely affected without competitively-priced fresh food available at the neighborhood level. The consequences include more time and money being budgeted for grocery shopping.
  • Food dollars are likely being spent by residents in high need areas at discount and convenience stores whose line of food products is limited, of poor quality, and generally more expensive than the same products sold at supermarkets. These stores do not generally carry produce and meat at affordable prices or at all.
  • There is enormous capacity for new supermarkets throughout the city. NYC has the potential to capture approximately $1 billion in lost grocery sales to suburbs3. The loss in sales is enough to support more than 100 new neighborhood grocery stores and supermarkets.”

DCP continues by outlining steps it can take to address this issue, but what can be done at a community level? This NY Times article puts a human face on the story, and mentions the efforts of Bronx Community Board 9 to retain a longstanding supermarket use in its district. Projects in other neighborhoods, such as East New York Farms! encourage neighborhood residents to grow and sell their own produce at community gardens and farmers markets. How is YOUR community addressing this problem, or how do you think it should?

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