Creating Drought in a Food Desert

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It is a fact that one out of every seven Americans are now depending on SNAP aka Food Stamps for the bulk of their food supply.  That’s over 47 Million people in our nation that don’t have enough to eat.  In some communities, due to plant closings and massive unemployment, over 40% of the population is on this Federal food aid program.  A program, that itself admits, that in the best case scenario provides enough aid to buy 17 Days worth of food.

Best case scenario means you buy ingredients instead of processed, canned or bag/box food and you can get those ingredients at a good price.  This is not easy to do when you live in an area that is either underserved or not served at all by a grocery store within an area with decent transportation to that grocery store. Oh, you also not only have to have the ability to cook, which is no longer a “given”, you have to have someplace to cook it.  Get over that hurdle and see how many meals you can make.

The first step is getting to the store, and in “food deserts” there are no grocery stores or they are so hard to access that they might as well not be there.  And sometimes, they aren’t.

Case in point, in North St. Louis, they have lots of “corner stores” and some of them are pretty good about trying to have some necessities in stock and even some fruits and veggies.  Well, when the city will give out a vendors license for a fruit/veg stand.  And, in NSTL, there are two, yes two for half a city, local grocery stores.  Like the great Wal, they get a large percentage of their income from the very SNAP program that feeds the people there.  And when SNAP gets cut (see last October and this Jan. 1) those stores lose revenue.  A LOT of their revenue.  Up to 50%!  So cuts in SNAP=cuts in sales at the store.  And that’s doesn’t count what they call the “knock on effect” ie. whereby the store doesn’t make as much, so they hire fewer workers, who have less to spend, and the bank hires fewer people, and the bus runs fewer times a day, and, well, I hope you get the point.

In St. Louis, right now, one of the two stores serving NSTL is closing as of May 10 because of the knock on effect of fewer and fewer SNAP dollars coming into that particular store.  The store lies opposite it’s sister store, separated by about 5 miles.  That 5sqmi is already a food desert, and one of the oasis is dried up.  Let’s see you work all day or night, shop for groceries and then walk up to 5 miles to bring them home.  Let’s add the toddler and grade schooler you picked up along the way too.  Having fun yet?  Didn’t think so.

The next time you go to “just pick up a few groceries” please realize that there a 47 million other Americans who cannot do that.  And next time you hear, “let’s cut SNAP, it’s just an entitlement.”  Think of those neighbors of yours who are wondering where their next meal is coming from.  Yes, YOUR neighbors, no matter where you live.  Because, no matter where you live, someone you see daily, the maid, the gardener, the school bus driver, the teacher, the cop, the armed services personnel, chances are, one of them is on or is eligible for SNAP and other food assistance.

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