Potent lessons on food access


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This article was published 25/05/2017 (2135 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The availability of groceries nearby is an issue for many Elmwood residents.

Using the City’s Neighbourhood Profiles (which are based off of the 2011 National Household Survey), one finds 29.8 per cent of Elmwood residents bus, walk, bike or use other methods aside from personal car driving to get to work. This figure varies within the community, from a high of 38.8 per cent in the Talbot-Grey neighbourhood to a low of 21.2 per cent in East Elmwood and is over six percentage points higher in Elmwood than for Winnipeg overall.

Given its disproportionately high share of non-drivers, Elmwood is a community where nearby groceries are important.

A June 2016 University of Winnipeg Institute of Urban Studies report written by Kyle Wiebe, Jino Distasio and Ryan Shirtliffe looked systematically at access to food across Winnipeg. To measure access to food, the report examined the distance one would have to travel to get to big-name regional or national chain supermarkets. This distance measure was then coupled with a socioeconomic index that consisted of measures like the share of non-drivers and low-income families in order to measure people’s ability to travel and afford food.

The combined measure showed wealthy outer suburbs with low shares of non-driving had “no food risk” (residents were able to access to groceries) despite the lack of nearby supermarkets. At the other end, many inner-city areas with supermarkets within walking distance were rated as “food mirages” due to food prices being beyond many residents’ means.

The report shows that Elmwood neighbourhoods have serious issues with access to groceries. Chalmers and Talbot-Grey were identified as “severe food deserts”, where supermarkets are far away and many residents face challenges getting to them. Most of East Elmwood, which is bordered on the east by the Sobeys at Rendeers Square, is marked as being a “moderate food desert.”

There were limits to the scope of the research, such as not examining independent grocery stores. Tasse’s Balkan Foods, a mid-sized supermarket which serves central Chalmers, was excluded for this reason.

Nevertheless, lessons can be learned from the study.

Community initiatives like the Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation’s “Better Access to Groceries” program (which features bulk buying of fresh produce and selling to community members at low rates) are important.

The importance of including retail in local zoning to ensure grocery stores are available in the community and the need for anti-poverty policies are also potent lessons from Elmwood’s food access issues.

Dylon Martin is a community correspondent for Elmwood.

Dylon Martin

Dylon Martin
West Broadway community correspondent

Dylon Martin is a community correspondent for West Broadway.

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