Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Groups 5-8 Food Availability.

This Friday two members of group 5 traveled to Trenton, where they looked at food availability in four stores, including a 7-11 in Lawrenceville, two big supermarkets in Trenton, and a farmer’s market right outside of Trenton. Their group is is also using the Thrifty Food Plan to survey food, focusing mostly on the variety of food present, prices, and expiration dates, and whether or not stores accept food stamps

The students, Carolyn Smith-Lu and Anthony Loring were surprised by the great variety and quality of food in the two big supermarkets - Supreme FoodMarket and the Food Bazaar – and noted the extensive section of ethnic foods in both stores. Although in Supreme FoodMarket we were not warmly received, the manager of Food Bazaar met with Carolyn and Anthony, and emphasized the importance of taking into account the ethnic composition of the population that the store was marketing to. He also clarified that the reason for which the supermarkets seemed rather empty had to do with the fact that most of the shoppers tend to come at the very beginning of the month and late at night. The Farmer’s Market also offered a variety of affordable, fresh and healthy food.

At the 7-11, not surprisingly, there were a few Thrifty Food Plan items missing from the store, and most of the products did not have price labels, or were incorrectly labeled. The store employees were more than willing to ring up each item for them, and interestingly, one of the workers approached me to comment on the importance. of checking for expiration dates and correct prices at least once a month. However, it is not clear how useful the data from this store will be seeing that it is located in Lawrenceville and not in Trenton.

Their findings led Carolyn and Anthony to wonder if it would have been more helpful to look at the food offered in corner stores in residential neighborhoods as well as problems related to accessibility to the supermarkets. Given the data collected, the quality of the food sold in these stores is not a problem in Trenton. Carolyn also commented that there have been many proposals to modify the thrifty food plan, and that the study that groups 5-8 are doing may show that this indeed needs to be done.

During the upcoming weeks, the other three groups will visit their respective cities. All of them are using the same measure - the Thrifty Food Plan. The group doing research in Camden will also be taking advertisements, coupons and discounts into account. After having heard Catholic Health East’s CEO speak about the problem of diabetes in immigrant population, they will also be looking at the availability of healthy ethnic food. One aspect of their research that differs from the other groups' is that they will also be looking at what kind of restaurants are found within a three block walking distance of supermarkets.