By JULIA TURSHEN
The Spelman College professor reveals what you find when you see supermarkets as more than just a place to buy some bread.
Like everything in food, grocery shopping gives us a lot to unpack (no pun intended). So when I heard that Epicurious was dedicating 30 days to talking about groceries, I immediately thought of Dr. Ashanté M. Reese. Dr. Reese is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Spelman College, a 2017 Southern Foodways Alliance Smith Symposium Fellow, and the author of a forthcoming book, Between a Corner Store and a Safeway: Race, Resilience, and our Failing Food System. She tweets prolifically about her work, which is lucky for those of us who don’t have a seat in her classroom. I jumped at the chance to talk to her about what grocery stores tell us about ourselves, the problems with the term ‘food desert,’ and why some people just really, really need to shop with a grocery list.
Grocery stores operate as a ‘third space’ in most communities, something you’ve talked about. Can you explain what that term means and also how grocery stores operate as third spaces?
People define and use the term differently, but when I use it, I’m referring to these spaces of contact—places where people are social, particularly (and potentially) across lines of difference in ways that they may not be in other primary spaces that we intentionally cultivate (like our homes, or social spaces like church). So when we grocery shop, even if we don’t talk to people, these spaces are important for being in contact with others and the potential of what this contact means. For example, when I lived in D.C., I would see the same cashier at one of the local stores. That point of contact eventually became something I looked forward to and the cashier became someone I developed a relationship with. When we think of grocery stores in this context, it forces us to think about the multiple functions of stores.
Owning a grocery store means holding power in a community. Who owns most grocery stores in America?
I think it’s important to note that grocery stores (and here, I’m mostly referring to supermarkets and not the independently owned grocery stores that were more common in the early 20th century) in the U.S. are multinational corporations, which means people who have a ton of capital are those leading these corporations. Of course there are different forms of power, but yes, supermarkets are significant in neighborhoods for not only their role in providing food but also in the economic role.
We have to stop pretending that our food system is not broken. It is broken.
Your tweet thread about two Kroger grocery stores in Memphis so expertly broke down the politics of grocery stores. You said that grocery stores can “tell you much more than where people are buying food.”
What can grocery stores show us?
Supermarkets provide food for us, yes. But they also function in ways that reveal inequities, even if that is not their intent. When supermarkets are mapped across the U.S., what we see is that neighborhoods of color, particularly predominantly Black neighborhoods, regardless of income, have lower access than their white counterparts.
When we see supermarkets within historical context, this makes sense. Post 1960s, supermarkets followed the flight to the suburbs, chasing profits and stability, which also meant following mostly white and middle class consumers. This wasn’t something people didn’t know. As early as 1967 Trade Commissioner Mary Gardiner Jones was publicly commenting on supermarkets’ role in creating (or addressing) racial inequities. So when I say they tell us more than where people buy food, I am saying that they tell us about neighborhoods, they tell us about how deeply entrenched inequities are in U.S. society, and they tell us about why we should deeply question our investment in food corporations if we’re committed to increasing access and sovereignty for all.
When grocery stores shut down, what impact does that have for everyone who lives in those places?
What I know qualitatively from my research is that for elders in D.C. who I interviewed and could remember changes in supermarkets/grocery stores, the loss of a neighborhood store meant they had to alter their food geographies—where they were shopping, when they were shopping, and in some cases, how they would get there. We can’t assume that a store close to you will be the store you will choose. But it does make a difference when you don’t even have that choice. It may change one’s relationship to time and shopping.
The decline of grocery stores is not a new story, right?
No, it isn’t. We can map the decline, at least in major cities, since at least the 1960s. We have seen some change and growth as supermarkets return to the city alongside white and middle class people returning to the city. But by and large, we’ve seen waves of change as stores have grown in size and consumers have been offered other options that do not require them to go to a physical store, such as shopping online, Instacart, and the like.
You've said that the term 'food desert' should die and we need to all be part of an intersectional approach to understand food access inequality.
So the first of a two-part question: why is ‘food desert’ a broken term?
Well, first let me say that my critique of this term has evolved over time. I remember using it when I first started graduate school in 2009. I first started thinking about its problems when I was thinking about what a food desert actually is and how it functions. I felt that, just as we often only see barrenness in a desert and don’t consider the wildlife and critters that call it home and maintain that ecosystem, we ignore the people and institutions that exist in these neighborhoods that we call “deserts.”
Secondly, and I have been deeply influenced by activists like LaDonna Redmond and more recently Dara Cooper, this term points to a static problem and totally ignores processes. There are no grocery stores here?
That didn’t happen overnight. And actually, the roots of these processes—capitalism, racism, etc.—are no different from those from which other inequalities stem from. So if we’re interested in radically changing the food landscape, we can’t just focus on adding stores. We need to think about how supermarkets are intertwined with capital, neighborhood values, etc.
I will always fight for people’s right to have a choice.
Now part two: what does the intersectional approach to understanding food access inequality, and the intersectional approach to creating food access equity, look like?
I’ll try to keep this succinct, but it may be hard. First, I think we have to stop pretending that our food system is not broken. It is broken, and it isn’t just broken because of the threat of GMOs or people not knowing their farmers or where their food comes from. That is, indeed, part of it. But it is also broken because it has always reflected back to us the inequalities that exist in our society. To really reckon with that means that we have to consider how race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. are not just individual experiences or identities.
They are structures, often oppressive structures, that we cannot ignore. To treat them intersectionally is to consider how food is not separate from race, not separate from gender, not separate from ability, etc. and that where a person or community stands at these intersections means that they have radically different life chances and access to food.
A really important element of grocery shopping is having agency to choose whatever you want. There’s freedom in not only having access to food, but having access to a variety of food. Which brings me to your very helpful tweet thread about the proposed SNAP boxes.
Why is the elimination of choice such a vital thing to pay attention to?’
Another big question! Everything about this country and our food policies suggest that we a) do not trust poor people, b) do not believe poor people know how to make good choices for themselves, and c) we have a disdain for poor people. I am using “we” here to signal that this is a nationwide problem, and we see it in our policies, we see it in much of our philanthropy, and I certainly see it in the assumptions that go into much of the food work that people are getting funding for. We say we believe in choice in this country, that it is a fundamental right—except when you’re poor and a so-called “burden” to the state. I have said this before: while I want people to be healthy, I will always fight for people’s right to have a choice to define that for themselves, live that out for themselves, and have access to everything they need to make that a reality for themselves, even if that doesn’t look like my own definition or life. If I am only willing to advocate because of how I think other people should live, that’s just another form of bondage.
If we’re interested in radically changing the food landscape, we can’t just focus on adding stores.
A lighter question for you: where and how often do you shop for groceries?
I have a housemate, and we share grocery shopping and cooking responsiblities. We typically do shopping on Sundays and we alternate between Kroger and the Dekalb Farmer’s Market, which is an international market which has everything I need, and things I don’t need. Sometimes my housemate shops at Trader Joe’s, and I also love Sprouts. We live on the westside of Atlanta, though, and neither of those stores are close to us. We also support local farmers from whom we buy produce and are considering a CSA with an urban farm close to us.
Do you write a grocery list or are you more of a wanderer?
I make a list based on what we have decided to cook for the week, but I am a terrible shopper. I end up getting more things than I ever plan for. Just yesterday, I went to the grocery store and after, I texted my housemate (who is a much better shopper than I am) and declared she should never allow me to do the shopping again.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Situation Awareness Hawaii recovery from Hurricane Lane:
What makes one island state\territory\nation so different in planning, preparedness, response, and recovery from another when disaster strikes. Involvement of the ‘whole community’, involvement by all, taking a pro-active approach to save lives and build a more resilient community.
To our members involved in the pre-planning, and recovery of Hawaii at the federal, and State level. Thank you for your efforts and professionalism in ensuring the swift recovery of the communities of Hawaii from Hurricane Lane.
In the private sector, small business enterprises will be the key in serving communities with vital resources for shelter, clothing, water & food, and other necessities. Your business continuity plan (BCP) for your enterprise with aid agreements in the local communities also play a vital role in the overall emergency planning for recovery.
Charles D. Sharp
Private Sector Advisory
Assessment of Impacts from Hurricane Lane Begins in Hawaii
Residents are urged to remain cautious as a flash flood watch is in effect for all Hawaiian Islands through Sunday afternoon
August 26, 2018
FEMA continues working alongside multiple partners from the federal family, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector to support Hawaii’s efforts as they begin to assess the impacts from Hurricane Lane.
According to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, as of 11 p.m. HST, Lane is now a Tropical Storm with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. All land base tropical storm watches and warnings have been cancelled. The current forecast continues a weakening trend over the next few days, with Lane likely becoming a post-tropical low on Monday. Lingering moisture associated with Tropical Storm Lane will produce excessive rainfall this weekend, which could lead to additional flash flooding and landslides. Lane is expected to produce additional rain accumulations of 5 to 10 inches across the windward side of the Big Island and Maui and 3 to 5 inches elsewhere. Localized storm total amounts well in excess of 40 inches have already been observed along the windward side of the Big Island. A flash flood watch is in effect for all Hawaiian Islands through Sunday afternoon.
Not all the impacts from the event have been realized, flooding continues as more rain is expected in Maui, Kaua’i, Oahu and Hawaii counties.
Residents should follow the directions of state and local officials and avoid areas with damages. Do not return to damaged or flooded areas until told it is safe to do so. Stay away from downed power lines and flooded areas. Live power lines can cause fatal injuries. If you encounter flood waters, remember – turn around, don’t drown.
Residents can call 808-768-2489 for help with city services, a list of available shelters, or assistance with transportation to and from shelters.
To file a flood insurance claim under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), contact your insurance agent immediately. You can also call 1-800-427-4661 to learn more about your policy, and be directed to the appropriate claims resource. Within 24-48 hours, an adjuster will call you to schedule an appointment.
On August 22, 2018, President Trump approved HI Governor Ige’s request for an Emergency Declaration for Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai Counties, and the City and County of Honolulu in the State of Hawaii, limited to Direct Federal Assistance, as a result of Hurricane Lane. The Emergency Declaration authorizes FEMA to support the state with federal resources in its efforts to respond to the incident.
FEMA and its federal partners continue to coordinate closely with state and local officials to support any anticipated unmet needs.
FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Teams are on the ground in Hawaii to support the state with any potential rescue operations.
FEMA liaison officers are deployed to the Emergency Operations Center in Hawaii to help coordinate any additional requests for federal assistance. FEMA liaisons are also working with state and local officials on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui and Oahu.
FEMA Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) personnel and equipment are in Honolulu, Hilo and Kauai to support the state with secure and non-secure voice, video and information services to support emergency response communications needs.
A FEMA Region IX Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) is deployed to Hawaii for the Kilauea Lava flow. Additional teams remain in California, should they be needed.
The National Flood Insurance Program currently has 50 claims adjusters in Hawaii prepared to respond to insured survivors. An additional 500-600 adjusters are on standby should they be needed.
Preparedness and Safety Information for the Public
Emergency workers will be assisting people in flooded areas. You can help them by staying off the roads and out of the way.
If you must walk or drive in areas that have been flooded, stay on firm ground. Moving water only 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet.
Play it safe. Additional flooding or flash floods can occur. Listen for local warnings and information. If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, get out immediately and climb to higher ground.
You should listen to NOAA Weather Radio, watch TV, listen to the radio for official news, emergency alerts, and instructions as they become available.
Download the FEMA mobile app (available in English and Spanish) to receive ongoing emergency alerts and safety information so you and your loved ones know what to do before, during, and after disasters. This simple and easy-to-use app provides real-time alerts from the National Weather Service, open emergency shelter locations in your area, and preparedness tips for every type of disaster. Free and available on Apple and Android devices.
Please see attached Lifelines, Potential Impacts and Actions.
If you have any questions, please contact FEMA’s Private Sector Engagement Team at FEMA-Private-Sector@fema.dhs.gov.
Please help support FEMA’s mission of “Helping people before, during and after disasters.”
The 2018-2022 Strategic Plan creates a shared vision for the field of emergency management and sets an ambitious, yet achievable, path forward to unify and further professionalize emergency management across the country. We invite all of our stakeholders and partners to also adopt these priorities and join us in building a stronger Agency and a more prepared and resilient Nation.
Download the FEMA App to locate and get directions to open shelters across the state, and receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States. Follow FEMA online at www.fema.gov/blog, www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema and www.youtube.com/fema. Also, follow Administrator Brock Long's activities at https://twitter.com/fema_brock. The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.
This service is provided to you at no charge by FEMA.
Black Emergency Managers Association
1231 Good Hope Road S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20020
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” ¯ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
Cooperation, Collaboration, Communication, Coordination, Community engagement, and Partnering (C5&P) A 501 (c) 3 organization.
Saturday, August 25, 2018
It is an honor and pleasure to announce the publication of our member, Dr. Morris Koffa (Lifetime) new book ‘The Ebola Epidemic in Liberia’.
Morris is a valued advisor on Liberia and cultural knowledge and understanding to me, and in focusing members of BEMA International in local community issues, capacity building, diaspora expertise for not only Liberia, but other African Descent communities globally. Addressing environmental inequity issues in Liberia, the continent of Africa, and other communities. Pertinent to communities from Flint, Michigan (water contamination), to Bay View community of San Francisco (radiological contamination), Nigeria Delta Region (oil contamination), and other communities not brought into the light.
There is no ‘brain drain’ from our communities, just an under-utilized, non-interactive, or non-inclusive addition of experts from the diaspora sitting and invited to the table, Experts that not only have the problem-solving power, but as a collective the financial means to address the most pressing issues from financial inequity, homelessness, education, water & food security issues, and other social disaster\crisis\emergency management concerns.
Looking forward to weekend read.
Charles D. Sharp
The Ebola Epidemic in Liberia
Paperback, 84 Pages
Prints in 3-5 business days
In this maiden scholastic work, Dr. Morris T. Koffa explores the link that runs through taking care of the environment, addressing issues of emergency/disaster management, and creating public health awareness.
He explains how Liberia's failure to put appropriate infrastructures in place intensified the adverse impact of the Ebola virus epidemic that decimated a huge number of Liberians.
This is a book whose time has really arrived.
Read it and be inspired.
Charles D. Sharp
Chief Executive Officer
Black Emergency Managers Association
1231 Good Hope Road S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20020
Change without Sacrifice is an Illusion. Lisa Ellis
Friday, August 24, 2018
Rice U., University of Pittsburgh study also finds FEMA aid increased inequality
Damage caused by natural disasters and recovery efforts launched in their aftermaths have increased wealth inequality between races in the United States, according to new research from Rice University and the University of Pittsburgh.
“Damages Done: The Longitudinal Impacts of Natural Hazards on Wealth Inequality in the United States” will appear in an upcoming edition of Social Problems. A supplement to the paper highlights the wealth gap between whites and blacks attributable to natural disaster damage from 1999 through 2013 in 20 U.S. counties.
Researchers Junia Howell, a scholar at Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research and an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh and Jim Elliott, a professor of sociology at Rice and fellow at Rice’s Kinder Institute combined longitudinal data from nearly 3,500 families across the U.S. with governmental data on local natural disaster damages, Federal Emergency Management Aid (FEMA) and demographics. They followed these people from 1999 through 2013 as disaster damage of varying scale struck counties where they lived, and examined how their personal wealth was impacted.
“Last year the United States suffered more than $260 billion in direct damages from natural disasters –mainly from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria,” said Howell, who was the study’s lead author. “And there were also numerous wildfires, floods and tornadoes. Data show that since 2000, approximately 99 percent of counties in the U.S. have experienced significant damage from some type of natural disaster, with costs expected to increase significantly over coming years. We wanted to investigate how these damages impact wealth inequality and accumulation.”
Whites who lived in counties with only $100,000 in damage from 1999 to 2013 gained an average of approximately $26,000 in wealth. However, those who lived in counties with at least $10 billion in damage during the same time period gained nearly $126,000, the paper said.
“In other words, whites living in counties with considerable damage from natural disasters accumulate more wealth than their white counterparts living in counties without major natural disaster damage,” Howell said.
However, among blacks, Latinos and Asians, the results went the other direction. Blacks who lived in counties with just $100,000 in damage gained an estimated $19,000 in wealth on average, while those living in counties with at least $10 billion in damage lost an estimated $27,000. Latinos in counties with $100,000 in damage gained $72,000 on average, and those in areas with at least $10 billion in damage lost an estimated $29,000. And Asians gained $21,000 on average and lost $10,000, respectively. These differences occurred even after the researchers controlled for a wide range of factors including age, education, homeownership, family status, residential mobility, neighborhood status and county population.
“Put another way, whites accumulate more wealth after natural disasters while residents of color accumulate less,” Elliott said. “What this means is wealth inequality is increasing in counties that are hit by more disasters.”
The researchers were able to estimate by county how much of the inequality is attributed to natural disasters. In Harris County, Texas, the disaster-related increase in the black-white wealth gap, on average, was $87,000.
The story does not stop there, Howell and Elliott said. Counties that received more aid from the FEMA saw additional increases in wealth inequality beyond that attributed to the natural disasters themselves. For example, whites living in counties that received at least $900 million in FEMA aid from 1999 to 2013 accumulated $55,000 more wealth on average than otherwise similar whites living in counties that received only $1,000 in aid. Conversely, blacks living in counties that received at least $900 million in FEMA aid accumulated $82,000 less wealth on average than otherwise similar blacks living in counties that received only $1,000 in FEMA aid. Similarly, Latinos accumulated $65,000 less on average, and other races (majority Asians) accumulated $51,000 less.
“It’s unclear why more FEMA aid is exacerbating inequality,” Howell said. “More research is clearly needed. However, based on previous work on disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, we know FEMA aid is not equitably distributed across communities. This is particularly true when it comes to infrastructural redevelopment, which often has profound effects on residents’ property appreciation and business vitality. When certain areas receive more redevelopment aid and those neighborhoods also are primarily white, racial inequality is going to be amplified.”
In addition to exacerbating racial wealth gaps, the researchers found that after natural disasters wealth inequality also increases based on home ownership. Individuals who owned homes in counties that experienced high levels of natural disaster damage accumulated $72,000 more wealth on average than their counterparts in counties with few disasters. Renters, on the other hand, lost $61,000 in wealth on average relative to renters in counties with few natural disasters.
“Put another way, natural disasters were responsible for a $133,000 increase in inequality between homeowners and renters in the hardest hit counties,” Elliott said.
Similarly, college-educated residents accumulated $111,000 more on average if they lived in a county that experienced extreme disasters compared to their counterparts who did not live through disasters. Conversely, those with only a 10th-grade education who lived in counties that experienced extreme disasters lost $48,000 from natural disaster damages on average when compared to counterparts who did not live through disasters.
“In other words, in the counties with the most damage, natural disasters are responsible for a $159,000 increase in the educational wealth gap,” Howell said.
Howell and Elliott said the results indicate that two major social challenges of our age – wealth inequality and rising costs of natural disasters – are increasingly and dynamically connected. They hope the research will encourage further examination of wealth inequality in the U.S. and development of solutions to address the problem.
“The good news is that if we develop more equitable approaches to disaster recovery, we can not only better tackle that problem but also help build a more just and resilient society,” Howell and Elliott concluded.
The researchers are now building on this work by examining how local for-profit and nonprofit organizations influence social inequality after natural disaster
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