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OPINION: A resolution for Dayton: Solving the food desert problem

With a new year under way, I’d like to pose the question: “What can you do to help our city with the food desert issue?”

Now, let me start by saying that Dayton is a great place to live. I was born and raised here and there’s a lot of rich history in the Gem City. We’re known as birthplace of funk music and aviation; we’re the home of the great Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poetry and the best TEDx event around. I’m so very proud of all of Dayton’s accomplishments — and yet, it makes me sad to hear that yet another grocery store is closing down in a predominantly low-income neighborhood.

“Food desert” is the term for neighborhoods with no stores within so many miles. I actually live in a food desert. There is a corner store about two blocks from my house that sells a few items. Corner stores seem to be the solution that has been put in place of grocery stores, because they are everywhere.

If you think there’s a problem with childhood obesity now, sending children to your friendly corner store is only going to make things worse — there is an abundance of junk food to buy at these types of stores. One can’t buy everything that’s needed and healthy at a corner store vs. a “real” grocery store.

If there’s not a solution to this problem soon, I suggest we change the term to “food cemeteries.” Without stores that sell fresh foods and vegetables, so many people’s health is simply going to deteriorate without access to good nutrition.

I’m confused. Why is it that where grocery stores are probably needed the most, there are none? Don’t get me wrong … everyone needs fresh food, but it seems as if all the major stores are only located in neighborhoods where people are making good incomes.

People who live in neighborhoods considered low-income should not be punished for living where they do. Many of the people who lived in these areas work hard, raise families and are living day-to-day to achieve the American dream just like anyone else. The circumstance of what area of town you live in should not determine whether you have access to nutritious food.

Why do I say that low-income neighborhoods need even more easy access to grocery stores? Simple — these neighborhoods have residents who are elderly, who have disabilities, and families with children and no reliable transportation. It’s kind of hard to go to a store to get what keeps you living when you have to take a lengthy bus ride to get there and back, lugging groceries. For some, this task is impossible. Put yourself in that position, and imagine.

The fact that this food desert issue is even a problem that has to be discussed puzzles me. Having access to nutritious food should be somewhere in a book of people’s rights. Access to fresh food is a necessity.

As a Daytonian who loves our city, I would like to propose a resolution for us to work on: the development of more stores in the community in the near future. It would also be nice to see a game plan around them so they won’t crash like previous ones.

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a prosperous Dayton filled with grocery stores that are easy to get to, that sell healthy food to people who need it?

Shari Cooper is one of our regular community contributors.

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