Multifood Supermarket opens in Windsor's west end

A new independent grocery store opens at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the space where a Price Chopper once was in the west-end of the city. The closure of the chain-grocery store, at the intersection of Crawford Avenue and Wyandotte Street, in 2012 created a 'food desert.'
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      A new independent grocery store opens Wednesday morning in the space where a Price Chopper once was in the west-end of the city.

      Multifood Supermarket opens at 9 a.m. Wednesday and will offer foods from several different countries, including: Asian, Filipino, South American, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Jamaican and European, said Qing Qing Lin, the owner of the new store. There will also be local food, fresh meat and fish, as well as halal items in the 22,000-square-foot space. Those in a rush will be able to pick up a variety of items like prepared, hot meals, sushi and bubble tea. 

      A food desert

      West-end residents have been without a big grocery store since 2012 when the Price Chopper, at the intersection of Crawford Avenue and Wyandotte Street, closed its doors. The closure led to what some experts call a food desert. A food desert is generally defined as an area of at least 1.6 kilometres with a lack of access to fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthful foods. Food deserts typically are in impoverished areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

      When the Price Chopper closed, west-end residents were left without a major grocery store between California Avenue and Goyeau Street, a distance of three square-kilometres.

      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, while in Saskatoon the distance is 1.5 km. Luo found 10 neighbourhoods that could be considered food deserts, with most in the west end. 

      Michelle Legere, the co-chair of Food Matters Windsor-Essex County, is happy to hear there will is a new option for Windsorites in the west end.

      "What's great is people will have the ability to walk there and get access to food, but what we hope is that food is affordable and nutritious at the same time," said Legere, in a phone interview with CBC News.

      Often people who live in food deserts can't afford to own a car and thus must walk, bike or ride the bus to get food, explains Legere. If a grocery store is too far away some will opt to go to a closer convenience store instead, where prices are generally higher, but selection of healthy foods is usually lower. 

      Food insecurity

      Many struggling communities, such as nearby Detroit, also have food deserts and residents with food security issues. 

      Windsor has one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada, standing at 8.7 per cent in July, according to Statistics Canada. Underemployment is also a big issue in the Windsor-Essex region, noted Legere. 

      So even if unemployed and underemployed Windsorites manage to get to a grocery store, the prices for the items on the shelves and in the fridges and freezers might stay out of reach. 

      The cost of eating healthy and nutritious food in this region has risen 19 per cent since 2009 and has already risen 4.7 per cent this year so far, said Legere. 

      With a report from the CBC's Jonathan Pinto


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