Study finds city’s south side is a food desert
WARREN — The lack of a major grocery store and having fewer convenience stores nearby makes Warren’s southside neighborhoods more food insecure than the rest of the city, according to a recently released study by Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.
Examining 91 items from a U.S. Department of Agriculture thrifty food plan survey list, stores on the city’s southeast side did not have 68 percent of the items, according to a study on food access conducted by TNP over the past year.
The list includes fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables; breads and cereals; dairy products; meats and meat alternatives; oils and fats; as well as seasonings.
TNP’s survey on food security and access is a result of a $31,551 planning grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which ends next month.
Approximately half of those that participated in an online survey as part of the study either were not satisfied with the food choices available, did not have funds to purchase them, or did not have easy access to healthy food choices, according TNP’s Cassandra Clevenger, who spearheaded the study.
Clevenger outlined the results of the nearly year-long study at the Southeast Side Community Association meeting on Thursday.
More than 43 convenience stores — including privately owned neighborhood stores, as well as regional and national stores — are located throughout the city, according to Clevenger. There are five larger grocery stores and supermarkets in the city, which are all located on the city’s north side. Less than half of the convenience stores are on the city’s south side.
“To address their needs, some respondents applied for federal food assistance programs, skipped meals and obtained additional work,” Clevenger said. “Some that obtained additional work risked other benefits they may have been receiving.”
Transportation also presented a problem because the distance between residents’ homes and places they purchase food ranged from being less than five minutes away to more than 74 minutes away. Average travel time was 20 minutes, the survey showed. Supermarkets and grocery stores in the city are not on bus routes, she said.
Of the 43 smaller convenience stores in the city, 24 of the owners/managers allowed TNP to look at the items they are selling and their costs.
“The average cost of commonly purchased items — white bread, milk, tuna, eggs and grape jelly — are higher in Warren than nationally,” Clevenger said.
The cost of a basket of these items is, on average, $10.43 in Warren, compared to $7.81 nationally, according to the study.
“We do not know why there is a difference,” Clevenger said. “Part of the explanation could lie in the quanity sold in the smaller stores compared to what is available in the larger stores.”
Clevenger said there are 12 federal food emergency programs in Trumbull County.
“We are glad these programs exist, but we want to encourage self reliance and sustainability,” she said.
In the series of community meetings that will continue next week, Clevenger will not only outline what they learned in the data, but seek the public’s help to find solutions to eliminating food deserts and reducing food insecurity.
“We want to know what people really want,” Clevenger said. “We believe solutions include creating more food resources by creating more farmers markets, pop-up stores, home and community gardens and helping people open stores in their own areas, instead of waiting for someone else to come in.”
Nutrition education also is important.
“Having access to healthy food is only one aspect,” Clevenger said. “Sometimes people need to be taught how to prepare the foods available to them.”
“Farmers markets, such as the one held on Courthouse Square, and one in Howland, help to bring nutritious foods and recipes to residents.”
The final version of the study will be released after the community outreach portion is completed. For more information, visit tnpwarren.org.
• YWCA Warren, 375 N. Park Ave., 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.
• Raymond J. Wean Foundation, 147 W. Market St., Warren, 5 to 6:30 p.m.