An expert says the closure of Price Chopper at the intersection of Crawford Avenue and Wyandotte Street will change a large part of Windsor's west end into a "food desert."

The coordinator of Food Matters for Windsor Essex said people live in a food desert when a grocery store isn't within 1.6 kms of their home.

"And, if you can’t walk to a healthy food source within 10 minutes of your home, you could be in a food desert," Michelle Legere said.

'It's going to become a food desert.' — Michelle Legere

When Price Chopper closes Oct. 24, it will leave one grocery store chain in the city core — Food Basics on Goyeau Street. That store is approximately a 20-minute walk away from the Price Chopper slated to close.

There is also a Metro, almost 40 minutes away by foot, at University Plaza at Tecumseh Road and Huron Church Road. Across from that, a new FreshCo will open soon. Those two stores are 3 kms apart, nearly double the geographical definition of a food desert.

"If you look at that immediate area, it’s going to become a food desert," Legere said.

Cheryl Taggart, a social worker with the University of Windsor, said grocery shopping is now a luxury for those who live in Windsor's west end and don't have easy access to transportation.

She said people will be forced to get basic necessities at convenience stores.

"Certainly people who routinely use fast food and convenience stores as meals then they're subject to a lot of health concerns and health issues," she said.

Taggart said a grocery store serves as a community hub. Taking that away isolates people.

"When grocery stores are not available, that's another sense of depletion of community and that ability to connect with like people from your neighbourhood being able to recognize them."

Some affected more than others

The move leaves Gina Fournier in a difficult spot. She relies on her son-in-law to push her in her wheelchair to the Price Chopper near her home.

"I'm going to have to find someone to take me somewhere further downtown. Obviously I can't get on a bus or anything like that someone always has to push me. So it's going to be a big inconvenience," Fournier said.

Her son-in-law, Tony Miotto isn't pleased.

"This is the only grocery store ... around this neighbourhood. None of us in this area will have a grocery store once it closes," he said. "We have to go all the way down to Huron Line or all the way to Food Basics."

People with no transportation or disabilities are most affected by food deserts.

"People with physical limitations ... that comes into play when you think about access to food. It’s a major issue for them," Legere said.

There is also a grocery further west, on Sandwich Street, near Brock Street. Giglio's, a smaller independent grocer, is also in the area.

And a member of the University of Windsor Student Alliance was trying to pursuade his colleagues to lure a grocery store to campus, but that failed.

Even the plans for the urban market to move into Windsor Arena have been delayed for at least a year.

So it's unclear how long people will have to wait to get easier access to food in the core.

Councillor hearing complaints

Coun. Fulvio Valentinis said there are 50 thousand people living in the downtown core. He said the demand for a grocery store chain is definitely there, but the city does not offer any incentives to grocery stores to move into the city.

Valentinis said he hears a lot of complaints from people in his ward. They said there isn't anywhere to shop for groceries.

Legere said it's time to incorporate community gardens and food co-ops on the west end. She said food skills and education are also needed, so people know how to make the most of the food they do have access to.

"We know the west end of Windsor has some struggles and issues when it comes to food access," Leger said. "There are issues around affordability. Sometimes there are issues about culturally appropriate food."