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The Market Forces That Make Food Deserts And Make Them Hard To Change

Food Forest PopUp PickUp, a pilot project made possible by a contribution from The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.

In 2017 Kroger closed its grocery in Walnut Hills, placing the neighborhood among several communities in the city considered food deserts, areas without access to fresh, healthy food for miles. The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation took ownership of the former Kroger building but realized it wasn't viable to get another large grocery retailer into the location. The Foundation is now planning to use grant money to launch a grocery store in a location to be determined.

The neighborhood of Avondale faced a similar challenge when its last grocery store, Aldi, closed in 2008. Now, after 11 years neighbors are close to seeing their community turn around from a food desert with the opening of the Avondale Town Center. The Community Builders, a Boston-based real estate developer, is in negotiations to bring a grocer into the new town center. The news comes after years of trying to get a grocery tenant, including a Save-A-Lot, in the neighborhood.

As neighborhood food deserts struggle to find new grocery tenants community members have to find new ways to fill the gaps left by the lack of fresh food options. In Avondale, Gabriel's Place offers a community garden and hosts cooking classes for neighbors. A mobile market, visits Walnut Hills and nine other local food deserts once a week delivering fresh produce. But restoring a grocer to the neighborhood remains a high priority in the communities.

Joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss the challenge of turning around a food desert and the market forces in the grocery industry contributing to this challenge are The Community Builders Community Life Senior Manager Reginald Harris; The Walnut Hills Redevelopment FoundationHealthy Outreach Coordinator Gary Dangle; and Mintel Senior Retail and Apparel Analyst Diana Smith.

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Michael Monks brings a broad range of experience to WVXU-FM as the host of Cincinnati Edition, Cincinnati Public Radio's weekday news and information talk show.