Two Groups Address West Side ‘Food Desert’

Fertile Underground produce head Michael Giroux chats up a customer on a recent Sunday afternoon. (Dave Fisher/ecoRI News)

Providence’s West Side is what food policy wonks call a food desert. That doesn’t mean there’s no food available in the area; it means there’s a lack of access to fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables. The neighborhood has its share of convenience stores and smaller markets for meats and such, but, until recently, the community lacked a grocery store within walking distance for the socio-economically diverse area.

Two groups have been attempting to address this need.

Fertile Underground was conceived by a group of artists conversing about ways to directly address the issues of food access, personal health in modern life, creative process and connection to nature. Late last year, the organization opened its grocery/café a few days a week, and about six weeks ago, began opening the store seven days a week.

The store is focused more on supplying fresh produce to neighborhood shoppers, but has expanded its selections to include quite a few dry goods, dairy and frozen goods that are organically and/or locally produced. Fertile Underground also has a small café in the store that offers light breakfast and lunch items, coffee, tea and fresh baked goods.

Urban Greens began as a bulk buying group, organized in 2001 by a group of West Side business people and artists. Urban Greens provides the opportunity for local residents to come together and share in the process of acquiring groceries and save a few bucks at the same time.

Urban Greens would also like to open a full-service supermarket on the West Side. The group initially wanted to open at 1577 Westminster St. — now home to the other group attempting to moisten this food desert, Fertile Underground Natural Grocery — but found the space was too small to support a market that could provide one-stop shopping for West Siders. The group has about 300 members signed on for the co-op, and would like to double that number this year.

…Read the full story on ecoRI News.

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ecoRI News is a nonprofit journalistic initiative devoted to educating the public about the causes, consequences and solutions to local environmental/social justice concerns. We are a professionally staffed, Web-based news agency focused on environmental/social justice news and issues that impact Rhode Island.

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