Discount stores

Birmingham’s new law hopes to increase availability of fresh food and limit discount stores

Birmingham changed its zoning on Tuesday to increase access to fresh food and limit discount stores.

The changes aim to improve the nutrition of around 149,000 Birmingham residents – around 69% of the city’s population – who live in a “food desert”. The USDA defines a “food desert” as an area where at least one in three people live more than a mile away from fresh food and do not have access to a car.

“We are currently in crisis mode,” said board member John Hilliard. “Our children at school cannot concentrate. They don’t have fresh fruits and vegetables in their community. “

With its Healthy Food Ordinance approved on Tuesday, the city is restricting discount or “dollar” stores so they don’t attract grocer customers; relaxes restrictions on fresh food producers; and reduced costs for grocers interested in relocating to the city. half mile buffer to avoid too many stores in an area.

Discount stores now cannot be within a mile of an existing store. City officials and those who study food issues say discount stores are making food deserts worse by over-saturating low-income, majority-black neighborhoods, diverting customers and money from grocery stores. In small towns, grocers’ incomes fell 30% after opening a dollar store, city officials said. Alabama is among the Top 5 states with the most discount stores per capita, with more than two stores per 10,000 residents, according to city officials.

Five grocery stores have closed in Birmingham over the past decade, including Western Market, Winn Dixie and Walmart; three major chains have already rejected the city’s expansion request.

The ordinance approved Tuesday also eases parking and square footage restrictions at grocery stores and allows on-site sales in community gardens.

City-wide zoning changes for healthy food producers and vendors approved on Tuesday include increasing the number of days per year that market stalls, farmers’ markets and public markets can operate . It also increases the amount of compost that community gardens and urban agriculture can store on-site and allows them to operate greenhouses.

These zoning changes also allow mobile grocers to operate in residential neighborhoods with certain restrictions. They must operate on community sites such as schools, parks and public buildings with the written permission of the owner.

As part of this project, the city has already invested in the expansion of Marino in Ensley and established $ 500,000 for the Healthy Foods Fund to pay incentives to attract grocers. He also conducted a study on local grocery stores.

The city plans to recruit a grocer at Five Points West and support a stable transition of East Village Market, which was acquired by local investors in April. He also plans to work with convenience stores to provide other healthy food options. In the long term, the city hopes to recruit a new grocery chain.

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