Could Gem City Market end Dayton’s food desert? 5 questions answered for you

The Gem City Market will be built on the 300 and 400 block of Salem Ave., bringing a full-service grocery store to one of the largest food deserts in the state.

Market supporters this morning announced the location of the market, which will become Dayton’s first worker and community-owned co-operative grocery store. The market will be constructed on a vacant lot on the 400 block of Salem, but also the project will involve reusing the abandoned Ken McCallister Inc. art supply property at 300 Salem Ave.

» WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Gem City Market food co-op gets a home in northwest Dayton

Here are five questions answered for you about the project and Dayton’s food desert:

1. So, what’s next for the Gem City Market?

The hope is to open the market in 2019. Gem City Market supporters this morning announced the kick-off of the capital campaign to raise money to build the grocery store. The goal is to raise $4.2 million, but more than a third of that investment has already been committed.

2. How can I get involved in the Gem City Market?

The market has a goal of selling 2,000 shares (or memberships) before it opens its doors. Supporters are approaching the half-way mark, with more than 920 memberships sold. Unlike most grocery stores, the Gem City Market will be owned by its workers, customers and community supporters, the market said in a statement.

» COVERAGE THAT MATTERSProposed grocery co-op has brisk sales of shares

Memberships cost $100. But some people will qualify for a subsidized membership. There are payment plans to help spread out the membership fee. Members also can vote or run for a seat on the market’s board of directors, get to participate in annual meetings to make decisions about the store and will share in the percentage of profit not reinvested in the store.

3. How will the market help the community? 

The market, which will employ local residents, will offer fresh produce, meat, goods and other high-quality staple foods. In West Dayton, a food desert has impacted the local community for years.

Of all U.S. households, 2.3 million — or about 2.2 percent — live more than a mile from a supermarket and do not have access to a vehicle. An additional 3.2 percent live between a half-mile to a mile from a supermarket with no vehicle access, according to the U.S. Department to Agriculture.

4. What is a food desert?

Food deserts are areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Limited access to affordable, healthier foods is one factor that may make it harder for some Americans to eat a healthy diet and could negatively affect their health.

5. Why does it matter now? 

The Gem City Market could fill a huge void for the community. Dayton ranked as one of the worst metropolitan areas in the U.S. for food hardship in 2014-2015, according to the Food Research & Action Center. The city ranked second out of the 25 highest metropolitan statistical areas rated on food hardship for households with children, according to the center’s report.

» BREAKING IT DOWN: As grocers build in suburbs, food deserts grow in Dayton

The news comes just after ALDI in the Westown Shopping Center closed after more than 20 years in business. ALDI’s decision to close its store drew harsh criticism from some community members who contend the decision will exacerbate food deserts in Dayton.

Food deserts are part of a national conversation right now. The Rev. Jesse Jackson organized protests against Cincinnati-based Kroger last month. Jackson launched a protest against Kroger after they announced the closures of two stores in predominantly black neighborhoods. The grocery chain is closing another store not far away in Mississippi. Jackson said food deserts are a serious issue in black communities. Memphis community leaders went to Kroger’s headquarters in Cincinnati this month to express concerns over the plans.


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