Friday, March 22, 2013

Bowie part of a food desert or looking for more variety?

NBC4's Prince George's County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins filed a news report on efforts to bring grocery stores to Prince George's County.  In particular, she looked at Bowie's efforts to bring Trader Joe's to the city, and the effort to bring Whole Foods to Route 1 in Riverdale Park.  She spoke with City of Bowie Economic Development Director, John Henry King, who said, "The grocery industry is going through a transition.  Wegmans' arrival in the Washington, D.C. region caused a lot of grocers to rethink where they place stores."

I think this story mixes up two different issues:  attracting grocery stores to areas where there are none, and attracting different grocery stores to provide greater variety .  Wilkins discusses this concept of a "food desert" where residents have to travel longer distances to get groceries.  That's not Bowie's case at all.  Bowie lost and gained grocery stores during the last ten years, but there isn't a lack of grocery stores.  The effort to attract Trader Joe's to Bowie is more about local grocery store variety.  University Park and Riverdale residents do have less shopping options than Bowie, but they aren't just asking for any ol' grocery store.  They've set their sites on a Whole Foods.

According to Wikipedia, a "food desert" is a district with little or no access to large grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. Instead of such stores, these districts often contain many fast food restaurants and convenience stores.  As Wilkins states in the news story, the USDA has designated certain areas of Prince George's County as food deserts.  That doesn't include Bowie, but does include some areas not far from Riverdale Park.

Click here to read the NBC 4 story and see the video.

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