September 20, 2012

By Thandisizwe Chimurenga


The month of September has given grocery shoppers in South Los Angeles a one-two punch with the announcements of two large store closings.  At the beginning of the month Supervalu, the parent company of Albertson’s grocery stores, announced it would be closing its La Brea Ave. and Rodeo Road store by Dec. 1 of this year, one of about 60 “underperforming” stores in the Southern California region. Recently, the Sentinel learned that the Ralph’s grocery store at Rodeo Road and Crenshaw Blvd. is also scheduled for closure.

Both stores are located in Los Angeles’ 10th Council District, represented by Herb Wesson who is currently president of the Los Angeles City Council.  Ed Johnson, the assistant chief deputy for Wesson, says that a new shopping center, which will include a Target department store and possibly a Smart and Final is planned for the Rodeo and Crenshaw site. 

According to Johnson the Ralph’s market further up the street at LaBrea and Rodeo which is “currently 30,000 square feet, will be expanding to 58,000 square feet and they will expand the grocery selection.”  Johnson says Ralph’s plan is to have the remodeling and expansion of the current store – which is projected to cost $9 million – completed and reopened by the end of the year.

In addition to the expanded Ralph’s store and Target there is also the Wal-Mart, located at King and Crenshaw boulevards, that Johnson says will also be increasing its grocery selection.

As for new or additional grocers coming to South L.A., British-based Fresh and Easy Supermarkets is scheduled to bring its offerings to Jefferson and Crenshaw boulevards. The chain had been in discussions to build a store at the corner of 52nd Street and Crenshaw Blvd. for several years but has basically abandoned that plan, according to a spokesperson for 8th District Councilman Bernard Parks. 

“They have given up, but Councilman Parks has not,” said Christine Dixon, Parks’ district director.  “The location [at 52nd and Crenshaw] is owned by a private individual.  We are working with the landowner to try and find another grocery store to build at the site, but so far we have not received any calls of interest.” 

Northgate Market, which operates “full service supermarkets in areas where first and second generation Mexican and Hispanic nationals predominantly live,” is also scheduled to open a store at 94th Street and South Broadway soon, according to Councilman Parks’ office.

The lack of fresh food offerings in urban areas across the U.S. – while at the same time having an over-abundance of fast food outlets – is most popularly known as a ‘food desert.’  In light of these recent store closings, one local activist thinks that name is misleading. 

“… we call it ‘food apartheid’ and not a ‘food desert’ – a desert occurs naturally, and apartheid is a result of human decisions.  Human decisions depict winners and losers,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson of the Community Coalition. 

‘Apartheid’ was the doctrine of ‘separateness’ that the white minority used to govern the majority-Black country of South Africa from approximately 1948 until 1994.

According to Harris-Dawson, the closure of the two stores in the 10th District “represents more dis-investment in our communities; we ought to be able to have a Target, a Wal-Mart AND grocery stores just like any other community.  We don’t find that in other communities - people having to choose this type of retail availability. Target and Wal-Mart food selections are not a replacement for a grocery store.  From what we’ve seen, it still means less fresh fruits and vegetable choices,” he said.

Bahni Turpin, an organizer for the South Los Angeles Food Co-op, echoes Harris-Dawson’s comments.  Turpin feels that both fresh and organic food should be available to the residents of South Los Angeles and that choosing between Target and Wal-Mart really doesn’t represent choice at all.  “It’s the same thing that was there before; with their labor practices, do you think that the food is going to get any better?”

Turpin and others have been working over the past year to set up a food cooperative or “co-op” (a business that is jointly-owned by all of its members with the profits and other benefits split equally) that will provide residents of South Los Angeles with organic foods which, according to Turpin are “foods that have been grown from seeds that are not genetically modified and without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers.” 

The group is currently in the process of incorporating within the State of California and looks forward to opening its doors by the end of next summer. 

The Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Farmer’s Market, which began in Leimert Park 5 years ago but has been headquartered at the mall since Nov., 2009, provides a fresh produce option for South L.A. Open every Saturday (“rain or shine”) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the farmer’s market is located in the parking lot of the Sear’s automotive center, and from 100 to 400 people take advantage of the offerings supplied by the 35 farmers, food vendors and artisans each week.

The small farmers who participate regularly come from around the Southern California region (Bakersfield, Temecula, San Diego, Clovis, San Bernardino, as well as Los Angeles County).  According to Brown the farmers select their produce the Friday before the Farmer’s Market to insure freshness, and many – though not all – of the products are grown without the use of harsh chemical pesticides.  “The farmers go through a process with the state’s department of agriculture to become certified as farmers, but to become certified as organic involves a separate application and permit, and many of them are not able to afford that additional fee,” said Brown.

Brown also said that, to her knowledge, the farmers do not use seeds or produce that has been genetically modified. Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;}

(all photos by Brandon I. Brooks)


Category: Community