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Archive for Sunday, January 19, 2014

Extra steps to eat: In Lawrence, nearly 18,000 live in federally designated ‘food desert’

January 19, 2014

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East Lawrence resident Lane Eisenbart is pictured with her 7-year-old daughter, Ro O'Leary, and the modified basket bicycle they take to the grocery store. Eisenbart, who doesn't have a car, lives in one of Lawrence's four federally designated food deserts.

East Lawrence resident Lane Eisenbart is pictured with her 7-year-old daughter, Ro O'Leary, and the modified basket bicycle they take to the grocery store. Eisenbart, who doesn't have a car, lives in one of Lawrence's four federally designated food deserts.

The northeast portion of Lawrence is a federally designated food desert. This map shows the four adjacent low-income census tracts where a significant number of residents live more than a mile from the nearest grocery store. More than 125 of those households do not have cars.

The northeast portion of Lawrence is a federally designated food desert. This map shows the four adjacent low-income census tracts where a significant number of residents live more than a mile from the nearest grocery store. More than 125 of those households do not have cars.

Related document

Lawrence food desert map ( .PDF )

East Lawrence resident Lane Eisenbart has heard that, once upon a time, there was a grocery store within a block of her house.

Especially those days when the single mom runs out of eggs mid-week and faces a cold bike ride in the dark to get more, she can’t help but sigh, wouldn’t that have been nice?

“This is my third winter without a car,” Eisenbart said. “I’m really tired of hustling quite so hard for simple things like getting to the grocery store.”

Eisenbart is one of nearly 18,000 northeast Lawrence residents living in a federally designated food desert. The desert — where a combination of low incomes, lack of grocery stores and lack of transportation makes it hard for some residents to get healthy food — stretches from Kasold Drive to the eastern city limits and envelops everything north of the river.

Community planners cite food deserts as a public health obstacle. But greening them up isn’t that simple.

Access to healthy, affordable food emerged as a top concern in a recent survey of county residents, said Christina Holt, chairwoman of LiveWell Lawrence’s Healthy Food for All committee and associate director at Kansas University’s Work Group for Community Health and Development.

“There was story after story,” Holt said. “We had many stories of residents who live in North Lawrence who said they did their grocery shopping at Dollar General because they didn’t have a car and transportation was a hardship for them... Besides the whole physical access to fresh produce, there’s also a financial barrier.”

Low access, low income

When it comes to food deserts, more attention seems to fall on inner-city or remote rural areas, said Shelly Ver Ploeg, an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, which developed the mapping tool designating food deserts nationwide.

But Lawrence — classified as urban, though it’s a small city — has large swaths of them.

Four adjacent low-income census tracts have a significant number of people who live at least a mile from the nearest supermarket, according to the USDA Food Access Research Atlas. Of those people, more than 3,000 are low-income, more than 2,000 are children and more than 720 are seniors. About 130 of their households don’t have cars.

In North Lawrence, none of the 2,800-plus residents lives within a mile of a full-service grocery, according to the data.

Since USDA designations are based primarily on census data, they account for children and seniors but not other common factors that might hinder access to food, such as disabilities, Ver Ploeg said.

‘Basket bike’ v. food desert

Eisenbart hopes she’ll be able to buy a car after she gets her tax return.

In the meantime, it’s her and her “basket bike” versus the food desert.

Eisenbart, who lives in the 1200 block of Pennsylvania Street, occasionally takes side roads to Checkers at 23rd and Louisiana streets but does most of her shopping at Dillons at 18th and Massachusetts streets because it’s closer, a mile from home.

Walking is hard to schedule because it takes so long, she said, and she’s found the bus unreliable. She rides a lighter-weight bike to work at KU, but her grocery-getter has a shopping cart basket welded to the frame, a custom creation of Lawrence’s Farnsworth Bicycle Laboratory.

She’s still exposed to the elements — darkness, icy roads, bad weather, bad drivers and just being tired — but, Eisenbart said, it’s nice that her basket is big enough to hold all the groceries she can afford when she does make the trip, about every week and a half.

Eisenbart said she plans meals and shopping trips ahead and tries hard to prioritize healthy, whole foods for herself, her 7-year-old and her 12-year-old. Sometimes in the summer she walks to the downtown farmers market, just under a mile away, where she’ll pay a little extra when she can for the high-quality produce there.

“It’s always a balance between what’s inexpensive and what’s good for me,” Eisenbart said. “It’s especially important because of my daughters ... I want them to experience a lot of fresh foods.”

An East Lawrence developer wants to bring in a grocery store of some kind on Eisenbart’s street, but so far nothing has materialized.

Without one, having a car sure would make getting food easier, Eisenbart said. She’d love to be able to just — what is it people say? — “run to the store” and get those eggs.

“Every day, I’m hustling to get what I need,” she said. “I’m just making it happen.”


Lawrence food deserts by the numbers

The following four Lawrence census tracts are federally designated food deserts, with low access defined as living one mile or more from the nearest supermarket.

North Lawrence

Population 2,847

Low-access residents: 2,847 (100 percent)

Low-access and low-income residents: 1,231 (43 percent)

Low-access households without vehicles: 54 (5 percent)

East of Massachusetts Street, north of 19th/23rd streets

Population 6,819

Low-access residents: 1,943 (29 percent)

Low-access and low-income residents: 734 (11 percent)

Low-access households without vehicles: 34 (1 percent)

Kasold Drive to Iowa Street, Sixth Street to Interstate 70

Population 5,079

Low-access residents: 1,753 (35 percent)

Low-access and low-income residents: 309 (6 percent)

Low-access households without vehicles: 25 (1 percent)

Iowa Street to Kansas River, Sixth Street to I-70

Population 3,227

Low-access residents: 1,900 (59 percent)

Low-access and low-income residents: 812 (25 percent)

Low-access households without vehicles: 18 (1 percent)

Total

Population 17,972

Low-access residents: 8,443 (47 percent)

Low-access and low-income residents: 3,086 (17 percent)

Low-access households without vehicles: 131 (less than 1 percent of total housing units)

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Access Research Atlas, 2013, ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas)

Comments

Scott Morgan 2 months, 3 weeks ago

In no way am I minimizing lack of mobility, a fear all of us in the over the hill crowd thinks about.

The Atlantic Magazine just had a feature on the high price of being poor. Pardon the pun, but food for thought.

NSTAAFL Knew I use that horrible Econ 101 course someday. No such thing as a free lunch, somebody has to pay. Owning and operating a vehicle legally (all insurance and fees) comes to quite a bit of change. Sadly, the poor face even more costs in most cases due to costly repairs. They get hit coming and going.

Operating a vehicle is much less than a delivery charge.

For those who really need it, seems like the fees could be paid by United Way, or some other non government agency.

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Lane Eisenbart 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I thank you all sincerely, friends and neighbors, for your kindness. Your offers -- rides, grocery money, eggs -- abound and warm my heart. I am glad to live in such a generous community. Thank you.

But, I think many are missing the point of this, and the following article. It's not about me. This is not about whether or not i could take a bus, or get a car, or find a ride, etc. This is not about whether or not I have eggs. This is about my access to eggs. This about access to healthy food for all, and the possibility of creating a town, a society, that doesn't rely so heavily on auto-transport. This is about being more conscientious in the way we construct our city (with an eye to the needs of everyone) how we consume resources, and, essentially, how we live. it's about looking at things, simple things, like getting groceries, from someone else's perspective. Just read it. and the next one. and the one after that. and so on. and think about it for a little while. just for a minute. that's all anyone is asking you to do.
think. re-think.

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Rae Hudspeth 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Keep in mind that for a senior on SSI, with perhaps only a very small budget for food, medicine and necessities, six dollars a trip twice a week is $48 a month. Quite frankly, some people don't have that much wiggle room in a budget. It could mean less food in the belly. Independence Inc was a no-fee possibility at one time, I don't know if they still do that? Of course, they and Senior Ride are subsidized by tax dollars and Kansas has put so many cuts on human services like them that I'm not sure they are still able to offer the service as in the past. :(

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Scott Morgan 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I see employees at Dillons and have seen others over the years loading up groceries for deliveries. Does this not happen anymore?

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Stacy Napier 2 months, 3 weeks ago

You can thank stores like Walmart, Target, Hyvee, and the likes. Everyone wanted bigger stores that have more selection and ceaper prices. This is what you get. You can't support a huge gorcery store in every neighborhood corner.

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Lawrence Morgan 2 months, 3 weeks ago

This is a very important area for discussion.

The comment above by Terry Lee makes fun of what for many people is a crucial matter, especially in bad weather.

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Terry Lee 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I used to ride my camel to the food desert....but then we got so poor we had to eat him...

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Clark Coan 2 months, 3 weeks ago

In about 1960 there were about 16 corner grocery stores in Lawrence. There were at least two in every neighborhood. I remember some of them . I would ride my bike to them to buy candy bars for 5 cents.

Aldi's is opening a store in the food desert east of Troost in KCMO. It's at 39th & Prospect. Seems like they got a tax subsidy of some sort.

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Phil Minkin 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't own a car, but since like to walk, walking to and from my home at 8th and Indiana to Dillons on Mass. isn't too big of a problem. However,there are people who live farther or aren't able to walk who have a problem with the lack of a centrally located grocery store. The old Borders could serve N. and E. Lawrence as well as OWL and those living downtown. Sign the petition: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/lawrence-for-downtown-grocery.html

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Leslie Swearingen 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The bus is not unreliable! That is a really bad excuse and I am not buying it. It would not be difficult for her to go to 11th and New Jersey and take the number 11 bus which has a stop at a Dillions and Natural Foods as well as the South Walmart and Target. It would cost her a dollar each way and trust me, I ride this bus all the time and it will get her to the store and back and on schedule which is to say the bus schedule. She can even put her bicycle on the bus if she would prefer to use the basket on it to hold her purchases.

I do understand the concept of food desert but people also have to stop and take some thought about the best ways to achieve what they did to. We should all help each other to do this.

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Rae Hudspeth 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Kasold Drive to Iowa Street, Sixth Street to Interstate 70

There is a Dillon's at 6th and Lawrence Ave, which would cover a mile of surrounding neighborhood that the graphic shows. I don't think I understand how this graphic was created, as least as far as that particular area.

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