News Mar 3, 2011 at 4:00 am

How to Lure Grocery Stores to Portland's Foodless Neighborhoods


There are parts of town without a supermarket, but Lents isn't one of them. There's a huge Fred Meyer at Foster and 82nd. There's also a Fubon, a Walmart and a Food 4 Less. Within another mile or so there are at least three Safeways, a Savealot and a Trader Joe's.

Driving to Happy Valley is ridiculous.

Not only are there plenty of food choices everywhere in that area, but if I owned one of them and found out that the city was going to spend taxpayer dollars to bring in a competitor, I'd be hopping mad.
I wouldn't call it food choices - I'd call it a lot of selection between pretty bad choices. Thus - the drive to Happy Valley. If you're going to get in your car and drive, may as well take a nice trip over Mt Scott along old farm roads rather than slog down 82nd or Foster.

Fred Meyer at 82nd and Foster - not pleasant to drive to or shop at. The walk is even worse. It's located at one of the highest crash intersections in the city. Quality and stock at this FM is just sad compared to other locations. The meat/seafood department smells like death and the beer/wine/cheese/natural foods/organics are poorly stocked. The other option is to MAX to the Johnson Creek FM - see comments re: Trader Joe's.

Fubonn- awesome for asian fare, conventional produce, the occasional pork belly and farmed shrimp from Thailand, but it's not in Lents and hard to access unless you want to ride the 72 or drive down 82nd. The food at Fubonn also has a lot of food miles - a. lot. It's a similar story with the small Eastern European Markets that are scattered in and around the area. These places are great for recent immigrants and picking up the occasional "bits" that make meals interesting, but depending on them probably isn't the best thing for the local economy or the environment.

Walmart - limited grocery selection, no meat or produce (yet), and believe it or not, a lot of people that live in Lents don't want to give their money to Bentonville.

Food 4 Less - Kroger spoilage stock store. Produce from here starts rotting as soon as you leave the store. Again with the 82nd and Powell to boot. Walking here involves dealing with one of the highest crash intersections in the city as well and navigating the crazy parking lot.

Trader Joe's at Johnson Creek - MAX-able, but you have to approach via the backside of Johnson Creek Crossing, walk through the crazy parking lot, cross 82nd by the Outback Steakhouse, cross the other crazy parking lot.....ugh. I've done it, a lot, it's not fun.

Safeway - requires two or more buses to get to in most cases.

Savealot - see Food 4 Less - the Kroger

A New Seasons or New Seasons-like grocery store at Lents Town Center, would be *IN* the neighborhood, approachable from neighborhood scale, pedestrian scale streets and would bring a different store format to the area that really wouldn't compete with any of the current options other than Fred Meyer, and only if Fred Meyer decided to clean up the Foster Store and stock it appropriately.
Psymonetta gives a good rundown of the problems with choices in this area. And it's even worse farther north, around Stark/Division. And let's reiterate: the WalMart on 82nd doesn't bother to sell produce -- with all the space they have here. And there's talk of attracting another one?
Walgreens? There's one on 82nd and Holgate, and one could not survive on the food they sell (candy, wine, soft drinks, etc.). No, we really don't need another Walgreens.
The good news is that there has been talk of a food co-op in Lents. But why isn't the PDC interested in doing something to help this along?
This story is morphing a little bit.

First we were told that Lents residents are without any place to purchase food. We now know that in fact there are plenty of food options, probably more than in most neighborhoods, they just don't meet Cora/Psymonetta's high standards.

And apparently it's the responsibility of the city's taxpayers to address this problem by recruiting the type of food offerings that Cora likes, and to create a food co-op that will meet Geyser's food preferences.

Sarah Mirk: Please do some real investigation of this issue. Plenty of neighborhoods have real issues with access to food. If you made a small effort you could very easily confirm that Lents isn't one of them.

It's not just a matter of preference, it has to do with food value - the amount of money one has to spend to acquire nutrients and the level of spoilage (loss of food) that occurs. None of the "local" options near Lents provide food that has high food value and doesn't spoil quickly - not even Fred Meyer. And, that's an additional economic burden to the people in Lents. Add the risk and health costs associated with the difficult transportation (busy streets, non pedestrian environments that encourage driving vs. walking) surrounding these stores, and that all adds up to inequity and a lack of the real choice that other more affluent neighborhoods enjoy. Believe me, I'd be very happy to see Fred Meyer improve the quality at their Foster store to be equal too what you see at other locations, but my guess is they'd be more inclined to close the Foster location than to improve the quality of the stock. Likewise, Walmart is adding a full service grocery in the next year or so - but that doesn't help the people in Lents that live East of I-205 and/or south of Foster, where there is a legitimate food desert, and the incomes just happen to be some of lowest in the neighborhood.

Right now, from a food value standpoint, it's more cost effective to use a grocery delivery service/CSA or to drive to the Happy Valley, Hawthorne, Sellwood or Division New Seasons than it is to buy sub-par food that spoils quickly. From a health implication standpoint, well - you're driving rather than walking.

Geyser, PDC is willing to help with a Co-op in Lents, the group just hasn't organized to that point, and it's much more difficult to raise (matching) funds in a neighborhood like Lents where the income levels aren't quite the same as those around Alberta, Clinton and Montavilla. They're trying, but it's going to be a long process to get there.
I'm sorry, Euphonius is right to any rational human being. The rest of you are spliting hairs to an absurd degree. I live in Lents you dillholes, and the biggest problem is NOT lack of a new seasons within 1000 yards that charges $4 for a tomato. it. is. not. period. no reply necessary.
I think that the problem (when it comes to the disagreement that is apparent here) is that the idea of a "food desert" probably means different things to different people. Do I think Lents is a food desert? Yes AND no. I live right smack dab in the middle of Lents- in the town center. Having a baby and driving an S-10 pickup (no legal means of accommodating the little guy) means that when my woman is gone with her Subaru and I'm home with the guy- we're pedestrians. Do we have access to food? Yes. We can walk to Fred Meyer. Except when it's pouring down rain! It's about a 12 block trek- or a little more if we choose not to walk down Foster Rd. Walking down Foster Rd with a baby in a stroller? In places the sidewalk is barely as wide as the stroller- and cars are zipping by going much faster than the posted speed. Another direct route, Ellis, lacks sidewalks almost entirely!!

We're lucky. If we were in the same situation and lived on the east-side of the freeway, things would be much worse. If we lived farther north eventually Food For Less would become our store. We also have the option of going to the "Oriental Food Value," the only store in the actual boundary of the neighborhood. We also have the option of waiting until the Subaru is here to do our grocery shopping- then we can go anywhere we want!! Not everyone has that option.

My neighbor, a barely employed truck driver who is reaching retirement age, refuses to shop at Fred Meyer because it's too expensive for him! Huh? So he hops in his gas-guzzling truck and drives down to Winco to get food! Soon to be living on a very meager social security check which will barely cover his rent, he probably isn't interested in seeing a New Seasons appear in the town center. He also has a problem with his feet that will no doubt soon prevent him from driving.... gyikes!

It isn't hard to imagine other people in our neighborhood that have a hard time accessing food. Imagine a single parent who has to walk or ride the bus to drop off a child or two, get to work, get back to pick up the kids, get home feed the kids and whatever. If they live on the east side of Lents, they're pretty much stuck with walking a ways to get to a bus with both of their kids on their day off and spending much of the day acquiring the food that they need for the week. There used to be at least one store on the east side- the Mt Scott Grocery. Now a super large convenience store, the Mt Scott Grocery USED to be a great neighborhood grocery store. In another age, there used to be a smaller store (I'm guessing) on Holgate that is now a larger convenience store at 108th? Well nowadays smaller stores are out- it's a driver's world!!

I know there are plenty of places in other more affluent neighborhoods where walking to get food isn't an option at all! People of means, who can live wherever they choose, don't have to worry where they live- and they can drive miles and go to all the store that they want!! I actually chose my own location because I know that someday the food choices will be greater. I couldn't afford to buy a house closer in, in the kind of neighborhood that I wanted to live in- a walkable, urban neighborhood with a lot of options for acquiring the food I like to eat. I DO shop at New Seasons- sometimes- and there is a lot of food there that I'd like to be able to enjoy without having to drive several miles to get to it! A Barbur World Foods in the town center would be great too- I cook a lot of ethnic foods which requires many ingredients that Fred Meyer just doesn't do a great job providing for me! Living in a "town center," implies that there should be a far greater variety of food available to me- and I think that there will be eventually! So I'd say that the Lents Town Center IS a food desert when it comes to what kind of variety you'd expect in a place referred to as a "town center." Other places in Lents are food deserts when it comes to access to food for people who are pedestrians or are transit dependent.

In any case, I'd say that listing Lents as a neighborhood that needs more food options and a greater variety of food options is right on. On the other hand there are probably a lot of people here who are perfectly happy driving to whatever store they choose no matter how far away it is! We need to remember there are a lot of people with different food needs- and desires!

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