The Freedom Market is a NEAD initiative that is located across the street from its main offices. Beechwood has 5,924 residents who are majority African American and Latino. Area challenges include: 1) absentee landlords whose properties are substandard; 2) deteriorated and deteriorating buildings; and 3) a significant number of City owned vacant properties with the standard bollard treatment the City uses to secure vacant property. While there are challenges, the neighborhood works hard to build on its assets such as: 1) involved neighborhood residents; 2) a strong sense of cultural unity, and; 3) a comprehensive development organization (NEAD).
With few supermarkets within the neighborhood, the residents of Beechwood do not have ready access to affordable, fresh and healthy food; they live in an urban “food desert” (Pothukuchi, 2005). McClintock (2011) suggests that food deserts disproportionately impact people of color and lower-income neighborhoods and communities, where in many of these urban spaces there exists uneven community development and imbalanced relationships of power (94). However, we find that people in this community live in a food swamp (http://theweek.com/article/index/218167/americarsquos-food-deserts). In other words, they are inundated with unhealthy food, rather than having nearby access to clean, healthy foods.
Because the area is extremely low-income, many residents do not have cars and must rely on public transportation to get around. While public transportation is an option for cheap and efficient mobility, it is not conducive to carrying several days worth of groceries. One can take only a few grocery bags on a crowded city bus at any given time, forcing residents to select light, portable goods over heavier, cumbersome products (such as fruit and vegetables). To get to a full-service supermarket, residents need to take a taxi to the closest market about a mile away. At approximately $10-15 per round-trip, this takes a sizeable chunk of the household grocery budget, an option many households in the neighborhood do not have. They can walk to corner stores as they walk “their” city (de Certeau, 1984).
This economic condition has caused the only alternative for these families to be grocery shopping at high-priced corner stores, largely stocked with high-fat, packaged foods that provide little to no nutritional value. There are 94 such markets in the Northeast of Rochester alone. The Freedom Market project is revamping a current corner store to introduce a larger variety of healthy food options to residents. By transforming the corner store, we offer the neighborhood an alternative that will phase in healthier and more affordable food options over a three-year period.