Luring supermarkets to low-income communities is difficult—so why not bus low-income communities to the food?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 23.5 million Americans have trouble accessing food from traditional grocers and supermarkets. With the local convenience store or bodega serving as the primary food market, residents of these so-called "food deserts" have difficulty acquiring more nutritious foods and often experience higher rates of obesity.
So why aren't there more supermarkets in the inner cities and unpopulated rural areas? It comes down to economics. Grocers already operate with extremely thin profit margins; on average their profits register only 2.5 percent of sales. Operating stores in food deserts proves significantly more expensive and serves as a deterrent. Consider these facts confronting urban grocers:
- On average, training staff costs seven times more in inner cities than in suburbs.
- Real estate taxes are higher.
- Security costs five times more.
- The cost of opening an urban store is 60 percent more than that of opening a suburban store ($16 per square foot vs. $10 per square foot).
- The cost to operate an urban store is $2.08 per square foot more per year than a suburban outlet.