Nick Furlow, a sophomore at U Conn, is a Resident Assistant and peer mentor to students. He’s lived in Hartford all his life. In the tenth grade he joined Grow Hartford Youth Program, which is one of many programs under the nonprofit Hartford Food System. Grow Hartford works to fight against social injustices and to spread awareness of the issues themselves. The youth program made Nick a lot more conscious about the food injustice he’s experienced as a kid.
Nick is minoring in Urban and Community studies to better his understanding of the food policies that greatly affect access to food. He hopes to use the knowledge to further his agenda of helping resolve food injustices in Hartford.
A major concept Nick (1:59-3:33), and Tony, discuss is “food desert.” The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) defines it as an area without easy access to fresh, healthy, and affordable foods. 1
A 2009 Report to Congress stated that there are 104.9 million American households that live more than a mile from a supermarket and don’t have access to a vehicle. Within urban clusters, 1.4 million individuals (29.3%) of the low-income population were more than one mile from the nearest supermarket. A study, done four years before this report, noted that over 46% of food stamp households only shopped at supermarkets.
Hartford’s Code of Ordinances
A major factor in shaping the policies that affect building development is the city’s code of ordinances. Ordinances can be a set of laws and regulations that apply to everyone within the city’s (or municipal’s) limits. Zoning rules fall under the code of ordinances. Such regulating laws ultimately decides on how the city’s land is used.
Yale Study: New Haven’s Greater Dwight Development Corp. (GDDC)
Nick also mentions the lack of development, specifically chain supermarkets in Hartford, which further challenges people’s access to food and their food security overall. In chapter six of Mark Winne’s book, Closing the Food Gap, Winne noted a Yale study that reported, “[These] suburban supermarkets have more product selection and better quality produce when compared to [urban] grocery stores” (Winne 86).
Furthermore, “on a nationwide basis, the policy center found that zip codes with the highest percentages of households on public assistance had less supermarket space per capita than higher-income zip codes” (Winne 88). As he concluded, “pulling the levers of public policy has become virtually the only effective recourse for those whom the marketplace has failed” (Winne 102).
Now small local grocery stores are nice because it’s nice to support the local economy. However, the prices at the convenience stores tend to be higher than the prices at supermarkets, despite usually having lower food quality and fewer options. (3:41-5:08) 2
When reflecting on his childhood experience of grocery shopping, Nick noticed that there hasn’t been any new grocery stores, particularly supermarkets, being built since he was a kid. (3:34-4:07) However, with Winne’s chapter in mind, this issue of “food apartheid” could be solved with more participation and support from local authorities, who have the ability to make policies that would encourage more big brand grocery stores to come to Hartford.