Area con­sid­ered food desert 6 months af­ter Kroger closes

Rome News-Tribune - - NEWS - By Samantha Max The Tele­graph of Ma­con

MA­CON — Gro­cery shop­ping is no longer an easy er­rand for west Ma­con res­i­dent An­gel­ica Wil­liams.

She some­times spends two hours on two dif­fer­ent buses to get to the Kroger in north Ma­con. It used to take her 30 min­utes on the bus to reach the Pio Nono Av­enue lo­ca­tion be­fore it closed in April.

Now the 28-year-old mom al­ter­nates go­ing to dif­fer­ent stores around town, try­ing to buy just enough to get her three-per­son fam­ily through the week, so she doesn't have to carry too many bags on the bus.

If Wil­liams wants to go to get ev­ery­thing she needs at one store, she has to make a full day of it.

"If you have any­thing else to do, you might want to just can­cel it," Wil­liams said.

The area sur­round­ing the va­cant Kroger is now con­sid­ered a food desert, de­void of fresh and nu­tri­tious foods within a one-mile ra­dius. In­stead, res­i­dents are lim­ited to con­ve­nience stores and dis­count shops, where op­tions are min­i­mal and prices of­ten steep.

It's not easy to main­tain a healthy diet on cor­ner store shop­ping, said Ch­eryl Gad­dis, pro­gram direc­tor for the master's of pub­lic health pro­gram at Mercer Uni­ver­sity. She stud­ies food ac­cess in Bibb and Hous­ton coun­ties.

At a gas sta­tion, shop­pers DUH PRUH OLNHO\ WR ¿QG SRWDWR chips than Yukon golds.

"Many of­fer things like hot dogs, pizza. Even some of­fer fried chicken now," Gad­dis said. "But those are not the healthy items that we want peo­ple to in­take, and so, when they're hav­ing to pur­chase things from the con­ve­nience stores, they're not get­ting healthy items."

Some cor­ner stores of­fer more nu­tri­tious op­tions, like prepack­aged sal­ads and sand­wiches, Gad­dis said, but they cost more than a ham­burger at a fast food restau­rant.

"Cost is go­ing to in­crease as the avail­abil­ity of healthy items is go­ing to de­crease," she said.

In food deserts, shop­pers are more likely to suf­fer from chronic dis­eases like obe­sity and heart dis­ease, Gad­dis said. Chil­dren feel the ef­fects, too.

"You're go­ing to see more chil­dren who are not suc­ceed­ing in school," Gad­dis said, "be­cause they're more fo­cused on, you know, try­ing to make sure they have some­thing to eat as op­posed to be­ing able to fo­cus on their school work." Where's the food? Gro­cery op­tions are few and far be­tween on the stretch of Pio Nono Av­enue where the Kroger once stood.

,Q D TXHVW WR ¿QG SDQWU\ sta­ples within walk­ing dis­tance, The Tele­graph and GPB Ma­con as­sem­bled a shop­ping list of ba­sic gro­cery items and VHW RXW RQ IRRW WR ¿QG WKHP The list: milk, bread, eggs, chicken, ba­nanas, ap­ples, car­rots, let­tuce, beans, ce­real, peanut but­ter and jelly.

At a Gulf gas sta­tion about a quar­ter-mile away, we found only two items on its list: beans and chicken — and the only chicken avail­able was canned. The food aisles were stocked mostly with chips, candy and sug­ary drinks.

About a quar­ter-mile far­ther down the road, a Fam­ily Dol­lar store sold a ver­sion of each item on the list but mostly in frozen, pack­aged or pre­served form.

The next-clos­est op­tion was a mile-and-a-half's walk from the shut­tered Kroger. My Store, near the in­ter­sec­tion of An­thony Road and Pio Nono Av­enue, was the only nearby mar­ket that of­fered both fresh pro­duce and meat, as well as non-es­sen­tials, like spices and sauces.

But our shop­ping list cost over $6 more at My Store than at Kroger. And while both My Store and Fam­ily Dol­lar ac­cepted food stamps, the Gulf gas sta­tion on Pio Nono did not.

With no su­per­mar­kets nearby, shop­pers have to take ex­tra fac­tors into ac­count be­fore mak­ing a trip to the store. Those with­out cars face ex­tra ob­sta­cles, Gad­dis said. The mile-and-a-half walk to My Store would make the store in­ac­ces­si­ble for some.

"They're go­ing to have to WDNH EXVHV RU ¿QG VRPH RWKHU means of trans­porta­tion to try to get to a gro­cery store," she said. "So, that means pay­ing to get there and then pay­ing to get back home, and then also mak­ing sure that they're able to carry all of the gro­ceries that they're pur­chas­ing back with them, us­ing what­ever trans­porta­tion means that they have."

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