A recent article in Crain’s reminded us about a post we wrote a few years ago bemoaning the dire state of Harlem’s supermarkets. In 2009, CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien shocked many of her viewers when she exposed Harlem’s dirty secret about being able to buy a gun easier than buying a fresh tomato in the neighborhood.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For me to go to buy a tomato or vegetables in general, I have to go to 110th Street and Broadway. O’BRIEN (on camera): So a solid 20-some-odd blocks?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or better, because I have to go up and then down. And it’s expensive but it’s worth me going there. But then I have to take a cab or take the bus there and the cab back.
O’BRIEN: How long does that take?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I took the bus, it would take me maybe 35 to 40 minutes to get there and I would have to take a cab back.
O’BRIEN: So you’re telling me it would take you an hour total time?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Approximately.
O’BRIEN: To buy a fresh tomato in the middle of New York City?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, in Harlem.
Fast forward to 2011. We can probably all agree that the grocery store situation in Harlem has definitely improved! While there hasn’t been influx of new supermarkets, the addition of Best Yet and Wild Olive, as well as many of the smaller chains changing ownership has been a step in the right direction.
In East Harlem, six small supermarkets have closed, and two more are on the brink, local officials said. In some cases, the old storefronts have been converted to drug stores that stand to make money coming and going — first selling processed foods and sodas, then selling medicines for illnesses that could have been prevented by a better diet.
The fact that a new Target and Costco on 116th Street offer fresh produce and dairy is also very encouraging. Do you think it was simply a matter of supply and demand or the fact that Harlem was virtually shamed into doing better? Leave your comments below.
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