Detroiters cut off from healthy food options, screams a Detroit News headline. “Panelist says lack of access killing residents,” reads the subhead, ratcheting up the drama.
So how are Detroiters “cut off” from healthy food options? How do they “lack access"? Apparently, like this:
The obstacles discussed included everything from city residents' attitudes about eating and government officials' failure to back local growing efforts to lack of access to fresh food.
Eesh. I know these panelists had nothing to do with the headline-writin’, but…we seem to have a little disconnect.
So when government officials do decide to “support” fresh food options, this is the reaction:
Among the city's food experts, the pending arrival of a Whole Foods in Detroit's Midtown is a mixed blessing for efforts to get healthier foods into more local hands.
"Their customer base isn't Detroit," Spady said. "… And there are a number of local businesses that are very concerned about their economic future as it relates to (Whole Foods' arrival)."
Gah? We’re in the middle of a discussion about how Detroiters “lack access” to healthy food, we see an example of government granting tax breaks to bring healthy food into the city, and the objection is…the “number of local businesses” that sell healthy food options are “very concerned.” Don’t they…not exist? Isn’t that the reason Detroiters “lack access” to healthy food? Are there a “number of local businesses” selling this stuff or not? The article mentions people who “live too far from Eastern Market and other markets,” which, great. But is that even true? Or relevant? Also, cool code word there in the first quote.
Kim and Hollis Smith left the affluent Ann Arbor marketplace to fill what they saw as a void in the food landscape in Detroit. Five months ago, they opened Kim's Produce, a storefront full of fresh food on Woodward at Willis in Detroit's Midtown.
Fresh food, in a city that has no major grocery store? Customers must be beating down the doors!
"When we first opened up here it would be pretty much Kim and I playing Scrabble," says Hollis, 42. "We would look over at McDonald's right across the street and their line would be wrapped around the building, out onto Woodward, causing traffic confusion, and people would wait. We would want to just go out and say, 'We've got fresh options over here.'
"But I think those golden arches are just like magnets, and some people are just hard-wired to feel that pull. And it just pulls people to McDonald's -- almost like zombies."
They're not doing the volume they did at their roadside stand in Ann Arbor. "Last summer we went through 150 pounds of tomatoes a day," says Kim. "Here we sell 10 pounds in two days."
Kim’s produce, by the way, is just down the block from the new Whole Foods site. They gotta be thrilled.
Anyway, Detroit's reputation as a giant food desert (I once had a friend ask me, “Is it true that there aren’t any grocery stores in Detroit?”) doesn’t seem to be entirely appropriate. At least, according to the government:
Perhaps we should be lamenting Ann Arborites’ lack of access to healthy options:
So how do these “experts” propose to remedy this crisis?
Panel members debated solutions such as a tax on pop or other drinks that are generally considered unhealthy, as well as a new emphasis on education such as home economics-style courses in local schools.
Forgive me for asking what reporters apparently cannot, but how does any of that improve access to healthy food? How does any of that help people who are “cut off” from healthy food?
It doesn’t, of course. Because that’s not the point. The point is that certain people are not eating what their mommies and daddies in positions of authority want them to eat. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past eight years, it’s that poor people are stupid and cannot be trusted to make their own decisions, and therefore, “smarter” people must make decisions for them…or at least not-so-gently nudged in that general direction or “educated” by their superiors. And I am an elitist asshole for objecting to that.
Look, if we’re talking specifically about people who have no job, no car, no access to public transportation, no urban gardens, markets, or grocery stores nearby, and are unable to afford the $2.50 it costs to consume the daily recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables, and actually want to eat that food, then we can conceivably discuss how people are being “killed” because they are “cut off” from and “lack access” to healthy food. But if we’re talking about voluntary choices, even if those choices are “easier”…come on. Let’s drop the hyperbole.