Grocery redevelopment set to relieve west end food desert

A proposed grocery store redevelopment in the city's west end will allow residents easier access to fresh food.

Three square kilometre area without a grocery store in Ward 2

Social workers said grocery stores are often more than places to shop. They can also be a centre for a community to come together. (Facebook)

A proposed grocery store redevelopment in the city's west end may relieve the pressure on one of its worst food deserts, according to an analysis of Windsor's grocery stores by the CBC.  

A food desert describes an area where residents don't have a grocery store within 1.6 kilometres of their home..

In February, the city issued a building permit to redevelop a retail store at the intersection of Wyandotte Street and Crawford Avenue. The future building is expected to be another grocery store, said Melissa Gasic, the site planning approval officer for the city.

"Whenever we create food in our environment, we make a better, happier and healthier environment. A new food distributor will make our communities more walk-able and more accessible," said Elizabeth Malone, the program coordinator for the partnership between the Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation and the University of Windsor.

When the Price Chopper closed in 2012, west end residents were left without a major grocery store between California Avenue and Goyeau Street, a distance of three square kilometres. For many the closest options are the Metro on Tecumseh Street West and the FreshCo on Huron Church Road.  

The average Windsor resident needs to travel 1.7 km to get to the nearest grocery store, according to research published by Carina Luo, a geospacial analyst at the University of Windsor. In London, Ont. the average distance is 1.3 km, in and Saskatoon the distance is 1.5 km.  

She found 10 neighbourhoods that could be considered food deserts, with most in the west end. A new supermarket will especially benefit university students, she said.

Filling the void

"For people who live in the area, and particularly for those who walk to the grocery store, this would be a significant thing for them," said Michelle Legere, the co-chair of Food Matters Windsor-Essex County. "Access to food is one of the biggest issues for people who are in situations of food insecurity."

Food security -- or insecurity -- is a measure of how easy it is for someone to have enough food to eat. For vulnerable people, the presence of a local grocery store is one critical factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Legere said.

Cheryl Taggart, a social worker with the University of Windsor, said a lack of a grocery stores harms the community in more ways than simply making it difficult to get food. 

"Grocery stores, aside from providing for food security, provide a sense of community. They allow people to meet their needs where they call home. People can have a sense of being and belonging," she said.

"[The loss of the Price Chopper] put a lot of people at a disadvantage. People without adequate transportation were forced to do without and make do," she said. 

Without different places to get fresh food, residents were forced to use convenience stores, where choices for produce and meats are limited, Taggart said.  

There are three small specialty stores offering ethnic food options within this corridor: Wingli Oriental Food and Grocery, Asian Bazar and Giglio's Market. 

Malone said these types of stores often help develop the sense of community, but they may not always stock the same basic food products as bigger grocery stores like Metro, which has five locations in Windsor, and FreshCo which has four.

Another grocery store helps "fill the void" in the area, said Ward Two councillor John Elliott. Most of this food desert is located in his ward. 

For Elliott, bringing more grocery stores into his ward is not a major concern. He said he's focused on bringing and retaining business without worrying about specifics.

"We're survivors," he said. "We're not a community that isn't going to give up if there isn't a grocery store in the neighbourhood. We'll make do and fill those gaps however we can."  

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  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that there was a Metro on Wyandotte West. In fact, that Metro is located on Tecumseh West.
    Mar 20, 2015 9:00 AM ET


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