Photo provided by Flickr.
On March 26, the Kroger on Pio Nono Avenue announced its closing due to profit loss. The store opened its doors in August 1994 and officially closed on April 20. For many Mercer students, this means now going a little farther to get the groceries a meal plan doesn’t cover, but what does this closing mean for the rest of the Macon community?
Reports from 13WMAZ, The Telegraph and other local stations all say the same thing. Locals are stunned and distraught over the closing. For many people in the community, this store was within walking distance—a valuable quality in an area where the best or only option for many is to travel by foot. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines the area around the Pio Nono Kroger as “Low Income and Low Access,” meaning that more than 100 households in the immediate surrounding areas do not have vehicles and are more than half a mile away from a supermarket. Once this Kroger closed, that distance increased, further disabling an already impoverished region.
A food desert, as defined by the USDA, is an area where low-income households are at least “half a mile away from the nearest supermarket, supercenter or large grocery store.” The Macon area is unfortunately filled with food deserts, according to a report by the Mercer University Global Health department. Consequently, many households in the community are considered food insecure, meaning they have limited or unpredictable access to adequate food. Families don’t know when or where their next meal is. The national food insecure population averages at 13 percent, but Georgia ranks well above that average at 16.2 percent, as reported by the Georgia Food Bank Association.
As a result of this accessibility crisis, locals often must opt for convenience stores, which offer unhealthy alternatives high in sugars and preservatives over healthy produce and fresh grocery foods. Families in the area now have to settle for frozen meals and packaged foods instead of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables.
This isn’t the first major store we’ve seen close in south Macon. A few months ago, Target on Eisenhower Parkway and the Kmart on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard both closed their doors. It is clear that access to high-quality, affordable products is quickly declining in the area, feeding into the cycle of poverty experienced by many in Macon.
In a statement to The Telegraph, former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis said, “Every business has a responsibility to the community.” It is clear that businesses in the area disagree with this sentiment.
If the community cannot count on business corporations to provide essential products, then the community must sustain itself. In the case of food and nutrition, the solutions to this deficit are farmers markets.
The Mulberry Market is one of the few consistent farmers markets here in Macon. It is held right around the corner from Mercer in Tattnall Square Park. The issue is, it is only open once a week from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
How can we expect working families to accommodate such a small time-frame to purchase nutritious foods?
Without proper access to necessities such as quality nutrition, the growth of south Macon is further hindered. As a result, the public stays in a cycle of poverty. As a community, we should support our existing local businesses and encourage the growth of new businesses in our area to improve the quality of life of the people residing in south Macon. In that way, Macon can grow and prosper as it is meant to do.