A snapshot of supermarket availability
Sustainable Long Island recognizes that access to fresh, healthy food is a critical and an often unmet need. Community members have repeatedly expressed a need for better access to fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods. In previous planning activities, community members across Long Island have visualized farmers markets’ in underutilized parking lots and new grocery stores where none existed before.
As part of our Food Equity Program, which addresses this critical issue, Sustainable Long Island has conducted research and examined data looking at the availability of fresh food in various retail locations (stores, farmers markets’, farm stands) and explored multiple solutions for bringing fresh food into currently underserved communities.
In partnership with the Long Island Index, Sustainable Long Island’s Food Access Map project makes information available about Long Island’s existing food retail environment in an effort to bring attention and problem-solving ideas to the issue of food equity. This is the first time this invaluable information has been made available for the public.
The food access map project shows locations of supermarkets across Long Island as a way to paint a picture of the availability of fresh, healthy, affordable food. Supermarkets are one of many types of food retailers; these stores provide a valuable indicator of gaps in food access. Supermarkets are a permanent source of a wide variety of food, including items essential for healthy eating, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. The map shows where supermarkets and large grocery stores exist throughout Long Island and where there are gaps in, or areas without, the availability of these types of stores. A recent update to the map in October 2012 provides new, current data including locations of warehouse clubs/supercenters (i.e. BJ’s, Costco, etc.), farmers’ markets, and farm stands.
Access to fresh, healthy food depends on a variety of factors, one of which is the location of food stores. Another factor is the availability of transportation to the stores for local residents. When viewed with other layers included in the Long Island Index map (i.e. bus routes, income, car ownership information), supermarket locations can paint a more complete picture of food access. For example, on the map, supermarket locations with a half-mile radius feature around them and bus route feature on top may reveal the difficulty accessing a grocery store for local residents who must rely on public transportation.
The information presented can be used to develop solutions suited to each community, from land use recommendations in community plans to project implementation. The data can help identify communities that may benefit from projects designed to increase access to fresh fruit and vegetables, such as creating farmers’ markets and grocery stores. Supermarkets and other full-service food retailers can be economic development opportunities for the communities they serve, creating healthier communities as well as jobs.
In 2010, Governor Paterson announced the Healthy Food Healthy Communities Fund – making $30 million in grants and loans available to “facilitate the development of healthy food markets in underserved communities throughout New York.” The fund is administered by Empire State Development with partners The Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF), The Reinvestment Fund, and The Food Trust. Funding is available to healthy food market operators or developers. Information is available online here.