Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quoth The Raven: "Nevermore!"

Once again, we're facing a public policy contradiction in terms. As NY1 is reporting, city health officials are handing out "Health Bucks" to food stamp recipients in the Bronx to buy fruits and vegetables at a local green market: "City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other local officials helped open the Bronx’s Poe Park Greenmarket Tuesday, as the city increased low-income access to fresh produce. The Department of Health announced Tuesday an increase in its Health Bucks program, which gives people credits towards fresh produce at green markets if they're in the Food Stamp program. The DOH will distribute 30,000 Health Bucks this year, up from 15,000 last year."

Now Poe Park is just a couple of blocks away from two MortonWilliams Associated Supermarkets. The one on Jerome and Kingsbridge is actually the first supermarket to come to the Bronx over fifty years ago, and the Sloan brothers have spent millions of dollars to renovate the store, as well as to purchase and renovate the supermarket that they bought on Jerome and Fordham (also just a stone's throw away from the greenmarket). In addition, the Sloans hire all of the workers for their Manhattan markets from this neighborhood (around 650 employees), making them one of the largest employers in the Kingsbridge community.

Make no mistake about it, the greenmarkets and the veggie peddlers to come, will take away produce business from existing supermarkets. Manhattan peddlers already are draining the Sloans' business to the tune of tens of thousands of lost sales per week. It's a zero-sum game, and in the midst of a supermarket crisis it will result in the further erosion of local supermarket presence in so-called underserved neighborhoods.