My mother and I are creatures of routine. Every Sunday, like clockwork, we: go to mass at St. Vincent’s, grab some coffee at the 7-11, and begin our errands. Usually, along the way, we eat something either at home or out and about. In that routine we have grown accustomed to the trouble of having to go to three to five different grocery stores in order to get the best food for our family.
That sounds insane right? Well, it kind of is. But it also serves a purpose. I live at, what I consider, the heart of South Central. We are surrounded by only a few markets with more and more closing each year. Naturally, we are faced with some essential questions: “what do we buy and where?”
Here is the breakdown of our typical grocery list:
Whole Foods- Select fruits and products only found here like “exotic” fruits and veggies, farm raised ham, organic vitamins etc.
Trader Joes- Organic greens, yogurts, snacks and cooking ideas
Ralph’s- Fruits, grains, milk products
La Superior- The essentials: juices, water, cat supplies, “Latin” spices, and other food staples
Expo Fish & Poultry- Proteins: fish, beef and chicken
This looks insane, especially thinking about all the different driving directions. But that’s just it, we have to drive so much to get ripe tomatoes that are not rotting, fresh grains that don’t taste old, etc.
Why aren’t these stores and products close to us and our neighborhoods? There is a demand after all.
More often than not we will find our neighbors at these stores. Like clockwork we go “what are you doing here?!” and usually get angered responses as to why anyone has to drive so far to get fresh greens and fruits. Those we see more frequently will respond with “the usual”, meaning this is just as routine for them as it is for me and my family.
This got me thinking; why should we have to go so far to get a healthier supply of foods. When you look around to see what is available to us in our community it is a lot of liquor stores, dollar stores, fast food joints at every corner.
In our surroundings we only have about four markets. Many times in an attempt to reduce our stops we try and purchase things we would get from the other stores, but usually not of the best quality. Every times we do, we realize just why we have to make so many trips. The reasons range from displayed goods being rotten to the items not even being stocked.
Does any of this sound familiar? Do you have a similar routine? Do you go to one store and constantly run into expensive rotten veggies or old fruits?
For my own benefit I asked my neighbors a few questions about the matter:
Q1: How many grocery stores do you go to?
Alissa Mendez: “It depends on what I need. I like the Costco since it has everything. If I go there I spend too much money, so sometimes just two markets.”
Q2: When you go to the market (any of them) what do you buy?
Sonya Velazquez: “I have to visit good markets first and buy snacks there, otherwise the kids grab Doritos and candy and I don’t need them eating that shit.”
Q3: If there was a healthy market here, in our area, would you shop there?
Maria Fleitas: “Of course, I think sometimes fancy people think we are too cheap or something. Like, we don’t want to spend money on fruits and vegetables. But I think the truth is if we had better or even more options around here people would buy. It can also help educate people on the options. You don’t have to eat a cheeseburger if you don’t want to but some people don’t know that, they think 'this is all I can afford.’”
These interviews ran much longer but most answers surrounded the same ideas. For some families, if people do not drive, it is much harder to gain access to healthier and higher quality options.
If you feel the same, or see the same issue in your community, I urge you to take a look around. Find empty lots, vacant spaces and envision healthy markets and food options for the community. Then ask yourselves, how great would it be to see our families thrive in a healthy manner and what would our neighborhoods look like with access to better foods?
Stay healthy, stay beautiful and always be aware.