Empowerment Thru Shopping

The news that a Save-A-Lot store may coming to the Hill District, giving the area a much-needed supermarket, should be welcomed news for residents and community leaders. However, they have concerns. They are hoping for more than a supermarket. They would hope it would have pharmacy and a bakery.

Now you may think this nit-picking, but imagine your local Giant Eagle or Shop-and-Save without a deli or a pharmacy or a bakery. Take it one step further. Imagine a grocery with only a couple brands of each product on the shelves. Try to envision not only a lack of selection, but also a lack of items to begin with — and those that are on the shelves are of lesser quality.

This is the contention of many who study businesses which cater to the inner city. While Save-A-Lot has not been accused of this, there have been many other business over the years which have come into urban areas and sold groceries of lesser quality ( high fat and sodium content ) or offered a stunning lack of selection. Residents are reduced to buying whatever is being offered there because of it’s proximity to their home and the fact that they can buy large amounts of food without worrying about how to get it home without a car.

It’s no coincidence that urban areas made up of mostly minority residents have a greater concentration of check-cashing businesses than suburban areas. It’s profiting upon a community’s weaknesses. It’s legal and – business-wise it can be justified – but it’s what’s described as “economic racism” and in the long run, it keeps the community from ever escaping a cycle of poverty and economic stagnation.

While I do applaud the efforts to build a supermarket for the Hill, I agree with the leaders there that it has to be more than just a glorified drug store where you can pick up a few items. It needs to be a full-service supermarket offering all the services that you and I take for granted at the markets in our neighborhood. It needs to bring the Hill closer to the American dream we all enjoy. Who knew that people could be empowered through shopping?
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