Editor’s note: Neighborhood Pride has since closed it’s doors. I think our class joins the Tompkins County community in mourning the loss of a short-lived grocery store. I for one applaud the tenacity and civic-mindedness of the Petito family and the hardworking employees of Neighborhood Pride for seeing a community need and working to address it in the best way they could.
by Nilim Gupta
There is a disturbing trend taking place in Ithaca today. As we grow up here Ithacans are growing apart, demarcated into various neighborhoods by income level. Each neighborhood– Downtown, Fall Creek, North Side, Cayuga Heights, Collegetown, West Hill, South Hill, East Hill, and Belle Sherman– is distinct in land values, racial demography, and the types of stores and services nearby. Two neighborhoods warrant special attention: Fall Creek and North Side. Fall Creekers generally have higher incomes, drive cars, and send their children to Fall Creek Elementary which was given a B grade by movoto.com. North Siders, on the other hand, are generally lower-income pedestrians whose kids go to Beverly J. Martin Elementary, less than one mile away from Fall Creek Elementary but with a grade of D. There is little in common between the two neighborhoods except for a small family-owned grocery store that straddles the border: Neighborhood Pride.
Neighborhood Pride is not the coolest grocery store around. It’s a typical grocery store, upon walking in you’ll immediately know where to find everything. You can’t buy beer, the sandwiches are good but not great, and the only place to hangout is a cheesy cafe full of families. Also, as can be seen from its sparsely stocked shelves, it’s not exactly beloved by locals. Still, whether or not we know it, Ithaca needs Neighborhood Pride to succeed. Despite the well-known association between health and the local food environment the residents of Fall Creek and North Side have startlingly few options for healthy and affordable groceries. These two neighborhoods don’t shop in the stores, go to the same parks, or send their kids to the same schools, yet they both need nearby healthy food. Neighborhood Pride has the unique potential to nourish Ithacans as well as overcome class boundaries between them.
Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that “the prevalence of obesity was lower in areas that had supermarkets and higher in area with small grocery stores or fast food restaurants” (Morland & Evernon, 2009). In the area surrounding Fall Creek and North Side there is only one supermarket: Aldi. This is problematic as Aldi sells very few organic and local foods in order to keep prices low. To be sure, this is exactly what many in the area, especially those in North Side, need from their grocery store: low prices. On the other hand, the food may not be as healthy which makes Aldi unattractive to the higher income families who mostly live in Fall Creek. Fall Creekers can generally make it Wegmans, about a mile and a half away. North Siders, usually pedestrians or bicycles, cannot. And as many of my peers know, getting to Wegmans by bus is not easy.
Ithaca prides itself on being unique. However, when it comes to supermarket locations Ithaca follows the national trend discovered by researchers that “compared to the poorest neighborhoods, large numbers of supermarkets and gas stations with convenience stores are located in wealthier neighborhoods” (Powell et al. 2007). Indeed, Ithacans who live in the wealthiest neighborhoods such as Cayuga Heights have an abundance of supermarkets to choose from. North Side, on the other hand, is an example of how limited choices become as income falls. This type of gentrification is not necessary; a grocery store such as Aldi can serve North Side adequately well, but there is demand in the area for healthier options as is evidenced by the relative success of GreenStar, an expensive specialty store. Although Neighborhood Pride and GreenStar fill different niches, should Neighborhood Pride be able to sell its local produce at lower prices than GreenStar it could draw the most health-conscious Ithacans to its doors.
According to some researchers, the Fall Creek community might be harmed by having to travel farther for groceries. A joint study concluded that “Individuals have higher BMI if they reside in disadvantaged areas and in areas where the average person frequents grocery stores located in more disadvantaged neighborhoods. Those who own cars and travel farther to their grocery stores also have higher BMI” (Inagami et al. 2006). Judging by these characteristics– income of area and distance from store– Neighborhood Pride is highly qualified to make the claim that they are promoting healthfulness in the community. Its location on Hancock St. puts approximately *5,000* people within a 1 mile radius and it is located on a pretty, suburban street with a park in view. According to one study this could decrease automobile traffic in the area “by making driving once again a matter of choice” (Handy & Clifton, 2001). A decrease in vehicular traffic would be welcomed by the community as the narrow city streets are dangerous and Rt. 13 is already quite busy.
There is a deep divide between the communities of Fall Creek and North Side in a way that Ithaca is not known for, by class. The best way to stitch them together would probably be for their kids to attend the same schools, for their parents to work in the same places, and for more events that both are interested in. But in the meantime, a good way to start is with building pride in where they live.
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Morland, K., Wing, S., Roux, A. D., & Poole, C. (2002). Neighborhood characteristics associated with the location of food stores and food service places. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 22(1). Retrieved November 4, 2013, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379701004032?np=y
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Kameshwari Pothukuchi & Jerome L. Kaufman (2000) The Food System, Journal of the American Planning
Association, 66:2, 113-124, DOI: 10.1080/01944360008976093
“Economic development policies to attract larger supermarkets may put smaller, neighborhood grocery stores out of business. On the other hand, they may also make available a greater variety of food at lower prices.”