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Push for grocery stores in poor areas

September 24, 2009 3:17:32 PM PDT
There's a push to get more supermarkets into poor neighborhoods. Without them, residents are forced to shop at bodegas that often lack fresh produce and healthy choices. Now, grocery stores are being lured with incentives.

In the Bronx, a Morton Williams supermarket is a good example of a good thing that has lasted. Customers love the fresh produce, and more than 200 items are organic. And shoppers have been going there for decades.

"Me personally, I look for price," customer Traci James said. "But I also look for quality, and I come here for quality. Because I like to know what's going in my stomach."

But throughout the Bronx and in other poor neighborhoods, choices are often limited. So now, New York wants to become the first city to offer zoning perks to developers who build supermarkets where they're most needed.

"The goal here is to make the process of opening a supermarket easier," City Council speaker Christine Quinn said. "And to make it something that developers see as beneficial."

And so some developers would be allowed to put up buildings 20,000 feet larger than what's allowed. New supermarkets would face fewer requirements for parking on the premises, and, perhaps, certain tax breaks if they put them in certain areas - such as northern Manhattan, central Brooklyn, the south Bronx and Jamaica, Queens.

The real question is, will this change people's eating habits? For too long and in too many of these neighborhoods, people head to their Duane Reade for chips and soda, or they buy fast food. If they want weekly groceries, they get them a the local bodega.

"The key factor is education," Morton Williams owner Avi Kaner said. "Educating the public who live in these neighborhoods, that eating healthy is an important part of their diet and their lives."

It's especially important as people in cities across the country struggle with obesity and diabetes. The New York plan will require City Council approval in the coming weeks.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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