Check out this map below of food deserts – areas that lack easy access to affordable, healthy, fresh food – in our own backyard by Syracuse Community Geography. As you can see, not many grocery stores existed in the greater city area at the end of 2013. Since this study was published over a year ago, probably only three to four more stores have popped up around town.
Food deserts are a huge urban hot topic right now. They signal blight, poor planning and a lack of healthy living in certain areas of a city. Think about where you live in relation to the nearest grocery store. Are you close enough to walk? Bike? Drive?
While there are other small city stores like the South Side Co-op or Nojaim’s SuperMarket in Syracuse, there simply aren’t enough shops in the city’s most impoverished areas. Imagine having just one really successful grocery store in downtown Syracuse. As downtown is becoming more walkable, it would provide residents with easy access to fresh food that’s not from a restaurant. Even students on campus aren’t privileged with a grocery store within walking distance. They either have to buy over-priced foods in small shops attached to dormitories or go to the convenience store in Marshall Square. Even more so, a great need for a store is found out by Onondaga Lake. Surely as development continues around that area, leaders will be diligent in including an affordable city market.
Target announced last month that it would close all of its 133 stores in Canada. Syracusans are interested in finding out whether this may spur interest in creating a Target inside Destiny Mall as many Canadians regularly make the trip to shop. Reuters reported that Target CEO Brian Cornell said he planned to accelerate the expansion of its CityTarget stores (80,000 to 160,000 square feet) and implement more of its TargetExpress convenience stores (only one exists so far in Minneapolis). A Boston CityTarget will be the first of its kind on the East Coast. Urban Walmart platforms have risen in the past few years and the major retailer plans to open 180 to 200 new Neighborhood Market stores this year.
Maybe Syracuse isn’t big enough for one of these mini-mega stores. But if we can prove there is a need and that consumers will come, then we should definitely be considered as a potential place for this new kind of urban market. And I’m not saying that we should choose the Walmart-mini-mart over a local business, but if that’s what it takes to eradicate food deserts in Syracuse, then why not think big?