Letter to the editor: Food desert? Not!


Any definition of “food desert” encompassing a neighborhood that contains Ahart’s Market and C-town Supermarket is seriously flawed. While neither of these grocery stores is a Wegmans, both contain high-quality produce, meats, dairy, and a large selection of other foods and goods found in most grocery stores. And for more than half the year, there’s an excellent farmers market at Lehigh.

A true food desert is a neighborhood that is served only by a 7-Eleven – like the Historic District just across the river on the near North Side, where I live. It’s also a pharmacy desert, by the way. For many of us these are small flaws in an otherwise great neighborhood, but for others a few blocks farther north, the absence of a nearby grocery store and pharmacy is a real hardship. I’d be delighted to have an Ahart’s and a Rite-Aid pharmacy — where I currently shop — within walking distance of my house!

-Beall Fowler, ’59, and professor emeritus of physics

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1 Comment

  1. Amy Charles '89 on

    Dear Beall –

    Try living in South Bethlehem on a fifth of what you used to make as a professor, real dollars of course, and I think you’ll find that a C-Town doesn’t really cut the cut-rate mustard. If you want families to have adequate nutrition, they need fresh produce of reasonable quality year-round, not just during farmer’s market season.

    I find that emeritus professors are often confused about what “low income” means, and what sort of effect it has on one’s ability to eat. A remarkable number of emeritus profs seem to believe that some government — state, federal, someone — sort of shows up at the doors of the poor with sustaining goodie baskets. This may be because if they ever were poor themselves, it was in childhood when they hadn’t responsibility for taking care of anyone, and they don’t really know any poor people now.

    The unfortunate reality is that the poor living in food deserts, as defined by USDA for good reasons (Vilsack’s actually rather a humane guy, wouldn’t mind having him back here in Iowa), there is no subsidy covering food costs adequately, and to get that much you can’t have anything much at all beyond an unreliable car which you can’t abuse by making runs to that one discount market that has okay fruit and veg somewhere out in Dutch country, because you need that car to get you to work. The poor, including children (had you noticed that the proportion of children in poverty has skyrocketed while the number of elderly in poverty has plummeted?), need decent grocery stores nearby with nutritious food and non-moldy, non-floppy produce year round at reasonable prices.

    Be a little more generous in your thinking, and enjoy your pretty historic neighborhood.

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