“Lunch? Oh, well, there isn’t anywhere for lunch around here”
Sometimes we start our interviews with people who work in Louisville, and particularly the Russel neighborhood, with ‘where do you go for lunch?’ to get the conversation rolling. The reply is almost invariably: “there’s nowhere to get lunch around here. I have to drive out to different parts of town to get food”.
Sure, there’s a Taco Bell and a McDonald's in the area. But that’s pretty much it (except for The Table, which has been mentioned in Pavani Peri’s post). People can’t live healthy, balanced lives by eating at Taco Bell and McDonald's. But when the nearest grocery store is a couple of miles away, and you don’t have a car, and public transportation can take an hour both ways (with several line changes), what do you end up eating? Something that’s quick and easy, and that is designed to taste addictive and ends up being extremely unhealthy. The argument that people ‘should just learn how to make better choices’ stands on shaky foundations when one appreciates the complexity and difficulty of accessing food (not even necessarily healthy food, just food in general) in West Louisville.
Ironically, I don’t think a grocery store will be the solution to all of West Louisville’s problems. Access to food is lacking, yes, but so is access to clothes, toothpaste and toilet paper. Perhaps a ‘food desert’ is a bit of misnomer, it’s more of a ‘resource desert’. A grocery store would be a valuable addition, but it won’t be a one-stop-shop for the community that some are touting it as. So should we give up on getting a grocery store to move in to West Louisville? No, absolutely not. We must still keep trying. But we must spend time, energy and money researching alternatives and amplifying existing private and non-profit organisations who are doing great work in this space.