As I walked passed this lady in Flushing, New York, I began to think back to yesterday when I was in Bushwick and Brownsville, Brooklyn. Supermarkets in Flushing are plentiful, yet competition is so cutthroat, as people shop around for the best prices. On top of that, even individuals compete with businesses by setting up shop by the bus stops.
The thriving economy of Flushing, New York is due to the effort that small business owners have established. Fresh vegetables and fruits are abundant throughout Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street, with various shops selling these goods at reasonable prices. However, in places like Brownsville and Bushwick, the amount of grocery stores are limited. The number of bodegas to supermarkets is overwhelmingly high, and they advertise unhealthy products in their store fronts, such as tobacco and alcohol. They often times do not carry healthier options such as skim milk, as opposed to regular milk. In both Brownsville and Bushwick, there is an initiative for bodegas to carry fresh foods and vegetables, but there has been resistance to change by local residents.
Brownsville and Bushwick are often referred to as a food deserts since there is a lack of fresh food alternatives. As a way to address this situation, the USDA has launched Food Access Research Atlas, which allows people to map out food deserts across the nation. The state has provided a sales tax exemption for these destinations, so business owners will set up shop and provide more food options.
There are also the Healthy NYC Green Carts, trying to provide more options to residents. However, the stands are not a complete solution, as they often times close early. Hence, working adults cannot take advantage of what the cart has to offer.
View of Union Street in Flushing, NY
Now, what if the lady from Flushing, NY could get a microloan so that she could start her own food and vegetable stand? What if there was a community organization that provided grants to entrepreneurs through both private and government funding? They could then set up shop in target areas. After all, this lady is making it work with a baby stroller and some cartons. What if she had some financial backing?
While the food discussion is being widely spoken about, it should be tied to employment. This can be done by increasing the resources available to potential small business owners focused in target immigrant neighborhoods. That way, entrepreneurs could solve the current food crisis through innovation. It becomes a win-win situation, as there is job creation alongside residents having access to healthier foods.