Is Walgreens the answer to urban food deserts? (Regular Flyer readers might remember a cover story on local food deserts a bit ago.)
Yesterday's NYT magazine ran an interesting piece about an experiment in Chicago to eradicate food deserts. With drug stores ubiquitous even in neighborhoods where supermarkets are rare, Walgreens seemed an easy answer:
“That’s the exciting thing about Walgreens, they’re in so many places,” [study author Mari] Gallagher says. (It was during her research on Detroit that she was struck by the fact that pharmacies were practically the only mainstream chain presence, aside from fast food, in many neighborhoods.) Thus the pharmacy chain did not have to open new stores in food deserts, because it was already operating in plenty of them, and could use Gallagher’s data to pick locations for its experiment. Still, refitting the stores to offer 750 or so new products, including whole new categories, without expanding their actual size was a big undertaking. (About 20 to 25 percent of the square footage in each participating store is now given over to food.)
She doesn't think they're the only solution to the problem, but it seems a good start. Walgreens plans to test the concept in smaller stores in other cities. Not only is it a benefit to the neighborhood, but just by the area being a food desert, Walgreens knows the market isn't exactly saturated.