A moveon.org petition to bring a Trader Joe’s to the Lehigh Valley has amassed over 4,000 signatures.
The campaign page was set up by Alexandra Milspaw to sway the CEO of the grocery store chain to consider building a location in the Lehigh Valley.
“Our community is filled with college students and hip, artsy, Trader Joe’s-loving folks who appreciate the natural, organic food options your store offers,” the petition’s introduction reads.
According to Psychology Today, Milspaw is a licensed professional counselor, who received her Masters of Education in counseling psychology at Lehigh.
Milspaw could not be reached for comment on the petition.
Southside Bethlehem was declared a “food desert” by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2020. According to the USDA, a food desert is “a low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents have limited access to a supermarket or large grocery store.”
Trader Joe’s Spokesperson Rachel Broderick spoke with The Brown and White over email about the possibility of a store becoming a reality for the Lehigh Valley.
Broderick said the company tends to project two years ahead. She said customer feedback is important in addition to location suggestions for where the next store should be.
“We want to open stores in areas that want us as a neighbor,” Broderick said.
At the moment, however, a Trader Joe’s in the Lehigh Valley is not planned, she said.
Sonia Vaysbaum, ‘24, Jack Tully, ‘24, and Lexi Branca, ‘22 have signed the petition.
Vaysbaum said as much as she would like to shop at Trader Joe’s like she does when at home, it would be impossible to at school given the amount of time it takes to get there.
The closest Trader Joe’s to Lehigh is in North Wales, PA — about a two-hour round trip drive. Vaysbaum said she does not have a car on campus, making it an unlikely trip.
“It’s unrealistic for me to even convince someone to come with me that far of a drive,” Vaysbaum said.
Vaysbaum said a Trader Joe’s in the Lehigh Valley would be beneficial because of the healthy food options it would offer, which she believes the Bethlehem area currently lacks.
“Because I struggle to find organic and natural food options at Lehigh, a Trader Joe’s would really give me the option to not only eat healthier meals, but also eat my favorite ones,” Vaysbaum said.
While the long trip to the nearest Trader Joe’s is not a convenient option, some Lehigh students are willing to make it for fresh produce and snacks.
Branca said she has made the trip to the North Wales location twice in her four years at Lehigh, but recognizes that it is not a practical solution.
“It’s not feasible to drive an hour there and back,” Branca said. “Instead I just go to a normal grocery store around here and get subpar items.”
Tully said the Lehigh Valley lacks easy access to affordable, healthy groceries and fresh produce, which Trader Joe’s provides.
Tully said Trader Joe’s is, “almost like the place is meant for busy students.”