Study finds food deserts exist

5th, 6th and 7th wards problematic

WARREN — Nearly a third of the city’s residents live in areas that may be considered food deserts or have food insecurity, according to a year-long study being conducted by Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.

“People are hungry and frustrated,” said Cassandra Clevenger, who is leading the study. “There is hope for change.”

Families that live south of South Street and Youngstown Warren Road — in the 5th, 6th and 7th wards — have the greatest possibility of facing food insecurity in their neighborhood, according to the study, which is being funded by a $31,000 grant provided the the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The study began in September and the data collection process is finished.

Food deserts are identified as areas in which more than 50 percent of the residents are poor, there are no grocery stores and there is limited to no transportation.

Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership has mapped out every food establishment in the city and what kind of access residents have to them, whether it is with vehicles or by walking, according to TNP Executive Director Matt Martin.

“It is not just stores, but also other places food is distributed, including local food programs through churches and other resources,” Martin said.

Clevenger said this is the first food access study done in Warren that studied the retail environment. They created a taskforce with 11 organizations that included Warren City Schools, the city and county health departments and other state and federal agencies.

“We went into the community to talk to residents about what they have been facing in terms of food access, transportation and costs,” Clevenger said. “We wanted to know whether they had enough money, had transportation issues, what kind of foods are available to them.”

“On of the issues we did not realize is the cost of food in Warren may be greater than in similar-sized communities,” she said. “Transportation is a big problem. There are areas in which even when people can take taxis to get food, it could take hours for them to get to the stores and back home.”

One of the goals is to educate people about healthy food choices. TNP went to approximately 75 percent of the stores that sell food, particularly in the identified desert area, and inventoried the food products in the stores. The store owners were not interviewed.

TNP plans on having a series of community meetings, including the topics of “Food Access and Hunger” and “Shopping Patterns.”

“We are planning to have those meetings beginning in the last two weeks in June,” Clevenger said. “We definitely want to obtain recommendations from residents about what changes they would like to see.”

Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, D-6th ward, who has not seen the study, said she has attempted in the past to get large supermarkets, such as TOPs, Giant Eagle and others to locate