Down on the corner

Down the ally from our apartment, there’s a little corner store. I stop there in a pinch to pick up milk, some lemon juice for canning, and the occasional roll of toilet paper. During the winter I got some oranges that were actually really good. But most people at the store with me generally are getting other things, like cigarettes, lotto tickets, synthetic pot or bath salts generally used as a hallucinogen (I think you snort them, it’s not like you put them in the tub, take a bath, and all of a sudden you’ve gone down the rabbit hole to meet Alice and her friends.)

About half a mile from there is another small shop. It’s right across from my first apartment in Springfield. It’s about the same as the first shop, only no fruit and it sells booze. It sells a lot of that alcohol out of a drive-thru window.

There are two types of people who generally shop at these places.

The first are similar to me, in that they stop by in an emergency to get one or two items instead of driving all the way across town. Lazy? I don’t know, maybe, I like to think of it as supporting the local economy.  These are the people who have the means to shop at other places with fresh produce, good meat and the raw ingredients to make your food your way.

The second are those who use these shops as their sole means of food. They’re usually poor, a few of them drunkards, and a few crackheads. Discounting those getting most of their nutrition through a bottle or a pipe since their health is already compromised and they need help a corner store can’t provide, these stores are very slowly killing these people.

Few fresh fruit, fewer frozen vegetables, almost nothing that isn’t prepackaged and premade, there just aren’t the options there to lead a healthy life.

Part of this comes from the new Wal-Mart mentality. You can always use something else from the store. Need milk and eggs? Might as well go to Wal-Mart and get that paint you need this weekend. Hungry for an apple or two? Might as well go to Wal-Mart and get that cable you need to run your computer through your television. Apparently a company called A&P is responsible for this transformation. I’m really interested in the book, and once my life has leveled out, it is on my to-read list.

But, if you stuck with me this long, there is good news! There’s a movement attempting to bring good food back to our small stores and bodegas throughout the country! It’s called the Healthy Corner Stores Network.

The Healthy Corner Stores Network supports efforts to increase the availability and sales of healthy, affordable foods through small-scale stores in underserved communities.

The Network brings together community members, local government staff, nonprofits, funders, and others across the country to share best practices and lessons learned, and to develop effective approaches to common challenges.

It’s an interesting idea. One that goes along with my desire to see more food grown locally. Locally grown food that I can then cook and gorge on and feel less guilty about it.

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