Sunday, October 25, 2009


By Ariel

Recently Greg advertised a forum he will be speaking at regarding access to healthy food in cities. Food systems planning is a really important issue, one that is incredibly important to ensuring a healthy city; check out Amanda Wagner’s article in the spring 2009 edition of Context, the journal of the AIA Philadelphia, for a fantastic exploration of food system planning.

While food system planning tends to focus on the development of grocery stores, farmers markets and community gardens, it does not often make the link between transportation, shopping and food systems. In Europe, and across the world, where communities are more walkable and fresh local produce is more accessible, stopping by a Shouk or a Bazar after work to pick up a few vegetables is a way of life. In America our shopping habits are more concentrated and require more support: we shop for groceries once or twice a month, load up our cars and hope we finish our vegetables before we go shopping again. But when 36% percent of Philadelphians' don’t own cars and when car ownership imposes a significant burden on low income families, then you have a growing realization that there is a critical link between food systems and transit planning.

According to the latest American Community Survey, 26% of Philadelphians commute to work via transit. While they may use transit for work, far fewer use it for such things as shopping. According to a 2005 Econsult on commercial corridors, only 10% of trips to commercial corridors were taken via public transit. More over 52% of all trips to commercial corridors in areas where thirty percent of the population is below the poverty line were via car. However, only 37% of people in those areas actually own cars. Philadelphians with lower incomes have significantly less access to fresh and healthy food and everybody from The Reinvestment Fund, to the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition and State Representative Dwight Evans have been fighting to bridge that gap. Over 125,000 people shop at local farmers markets, and 167,695 Philadelphians live near commercial corridors without grocery stores. By partnering with supermarkets and the Food Trust (which oversees Philadelphia’s 27 farmers markets), by out-fitting buses with simple shelves, and targeted routing changes it is possible to “move the needle” and bring the number of people who shop via SEPTA closer to those who commute via SEPTA.


Vincent of Valley Forge said...

Many shoppers in any particular store are completely unaware of a septa bus, trolley, train or subway line(s) running close to the store. Some sign, either in the doorway or at the cashier location, might help. (The sign could include directions to the bus stop, etc.) The store might also offer septa schedules for the particular route(s)!
Someday, if funding were found for it, a pocket directory of what stores are along each route would be handy and helpful.

Ariel said...

Thanks so much for the tip Vincent!

Robin said...

Store design can impact transportation habits as well. The new Green Grocer on North Broad has no doors or windows facing the sidewalk, but is oriented facing an interior parking lot.