Entrepreneurial Sprouts in the Food Desert

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Food policy people talk about food deserts, places where finding healthy, affordable food is diffiult. The usual example in Nashville is Edgehill at 12th Avenue. But there is an even bleaker food desert, with even fewer options, ever further away, without a bus line.

In the Nations, the neighborhood running from Charlotte Avenue to the river out Centennial Boulevard, there's not a proper grocery store and few healthy options for anyone on foot. The Section 8 housing on American Road is served by an Aldi, and a bus that continues to the Charlotte Wal-Mart. The neighborhood out Morrow Road is not so far from the Sav-A-Lot on Charlotte. But for the Nations, a working class neighborhood, the shopping and dining options, particularly for healthy foods, are very limited.

Drive around the neighborhood and it's possible to unearth some retail here and there. I've written before about Boss Hogg at 60th and Morrow, whose 'cue is passably good, smoked on a smoker and priced at $7/pound (for comparison, smoked turkey at Hog Heaven is $12/pound) Barbecue on a bun is $4. There's potato salad and a vegetable, most days, if you want a dinner plate.

Pick 'Em Grocery on Illinois at 46th, the family running it makes sandwiches to order. The ingredients are basic--inexpensive cold cuts, white bread, mustard--but the uptake is pretty good.

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Further out Centennial, at about 61st and Centennial, is a market with an "initial" name, like M&T. Around lunchtime, the proprietors make a pretty good, very basic, grilled ham and cheese. They wrap them and stack them in a skillet to keep warm, so the cheese in still melty when you unwrap it. It's not fancy, just white bread and American cheese, with a price tag to match: about $2.50 They usually have vegetable soup or chili, too, at $1.50 for a cup. It's not going to break into the Top Ten, but it's passable, hot and homemade, and nutritious.

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In line in front of me at M&T was someone using an electronic benefit card to buy $6 worth of Funyuns. For that, she could have bought two sandwiches, or a sandwich and two soups. Sometimes the "food desert" is on the inside.

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