Though Portland gets plenty of praise for being a foodie town, numerous Portland neighborhoods are lacking the more essential food resource: a grocery store. I tend to take Safeway for granted and openly curse Fred Meyer, but research has linked lack of grocery stores to less consumption of vegetables and higher obesity rates.
The mayor's office and Portland Development Commission put out a Request for Interest two weeks ago, soliciting grocery stores to build in neighborhoods that are a half mile or more away from a full-service grocery store. Building a new grocery store can be super expensive—according to a 2008 study of markets, big ones need five acres to build on at the cost of $90-150 per square foot and need 40,000-50,000 people in their "trade area" to make a profit. The city's request doesn't discriminate between brands, which means we could likely see urban renewal dollars and city money going to subsidize a Costco or WalMart in one of Portland's food deserts.
Check out the news story I wrote about this for more details, but also look at this map of grocery stores in the city. Every dot is a grocery store and the gray space around them marks a half mile. It's interesting which neighborhoods are without—mostly ones of the edges of the city, but also Eliot and University Park in North Portland and Lents in Southeast.
- For food policy wonks, here's an entire packet of Portland food maps, including poverty rates and other demographic info.