Last week, Casey attended the healthy corner store coalition meeting at a community center in the Tenderloin (find an elaboration on this visit below). We also received demographic data in the form of surveys and maps from our community partner, which has been helpful in making progress towards our project deliverables.
This week in our group members’ meeting, we solidified some of our next steps in working towards these deliverables. In particular, we are focusing on our literature review, database of potential new developments (including specific recommendations for potential retail), surveys of residents/retailers, an assessment of potential Prop J legacy businesses in the area, and creating a list of criteria for determining whether or not a potential commercial retail would fulfill community needs. We are working on adding to our collective annotated bibliography (and literature review), each reading and analyzing one piece a week each week for the rest of the quarter. This also includes looking at pre-existing projects and retail in other communities that may lend inspiration to new community-serving developments in the Tenderloin. In addition, we developed a game plan for what other data we need to collect surrounding the actual retail spaces available (square footage, for example) for new commercial developments and how we will accomplish this by visiting the Tenderloin again and contacting developers moving forward.
What We Observed and Learned
At the Tenderloin Healthy Corner Store Coalition (TLHCSC) meeting, the Food Justice Leaders and some members of the general public gathered to discuss the HealthyRetailSF program. First, the merits and faults of each of the existing redesigned corner stores were discussed. According to the Food Justice Leaders, all four redesigned corner stores are doing well. The main criticism was that some of the stores don’t have enough produce or enough variety of produce to encourage people to buy it. It also came up that some of the stores don’t have signs indicating the price of items, which is hard when shoppers have limited funds with which to purchase their groceries.
Next, the coalition discussed which of five corner stores in the neighborhood should be the next to be redesigned. The factors that were considered in a numerical score were as follows--proximity to other redesigned stores, whether the store sells alcohol and/or tobacco, proximity to supportive housing, store owner presence in the store, and store owner presence at the coalition meetings in 2014 and 2015. At the meeting, the Food Justice Leaders also considered size, products already in stock, cleanliness, organization, friendliness of clerks, and safety on that particular block. No conclusion was reached at this meeting.
While nothing discussed at the meeting directly pertained to our project, we got a better idea about what kinds of things the Food Justice Leaders and other meeting attendees considered valuable in a neighborhood corner store. One especially interesting insight we gained was that community members consider variety very important and gave bonus points to stores that carried electronics in addition to grocery items.
The information sent over to us by Ryan centers around food retail initiatives in the Tenderloin. During our meeting with community leaders, we sensed the need for certain food retail initiatives but these surveys and case studies help put the situation into perspective and accelerate our process immensely as the surveys would be difficult to carry out by ourselves.
The first source deals with surveys given to Tenderloin residents asking them about their habits with regard to buying produce. The pie chart showed that an overwhelming 57 percent of residents buy fruits and vegetables from outside the Tenderloin in areas such as the Heart of the City Farmer’s Market, Chinatown, Safeway, and Foods Co. Only 31% of residents surveyed actually buy such products in the Tenderloin. Similar trends were seen with regards to buying meat/poultry, bread/rice, and dairy. The most interesting trend, however, is that alcohol is the only substance that is consumed locally inside the Tenderloin rather than outside.
From an economic standpoint, approximately 80% of Tenderloin residents would buy locally inside the Tenderloin if corner stores actually sold more appropriate groceries rather than alcohol. The survey conducted asking how much residents spent on groceries each month equated to about roughly $200-300 spent per month. If we extrapolate this to all 17,000 households in the Tenderloin (which is poor statistics) then roughly $11 million every year is spent on groceries outside of the Tenderloin. This external spending is being blamed on the poor quality of groceries in the Tenderloin and the expensive costs. The only clear reason for people shopping in the Tenderloin is that its is more convenience especially since going to outside the Tenderloin for shopping requires long walking or a car for transportation.
However, surveys of Tenderloin residents with regards to spending habits is simply not enough information for a food retail initiative given the Tenderloins’ diverse and unique community. The largest population of homeless people are housed in this region, with more than a third of residents living with less than $15,000 annual income. Additionally, a third of residents also live with some type of disability, a number which can be expected to increase as residents age. These demographics offer specific challenges to food security in the Tenderloins. Homeless individuals rely on shelters for food, 15 percent of housing units don’t have full kitchen services, and many residents lack proper nutrition education.
As a result, implementation of a plan for food security in the Tenderloin will have to include more than just chain grocery stores but also nutrition and food preparation programs specifically targeting single-room-occupancy and public services for food access.
Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
We are beginning to put together our database of upcoming retail/commercial opportunities using the list of pending mixed-use developments in the Tenderloin provided to us by the TNDC. We plan to contact the developers of the individual projects to see what kind of information they can give us about the spaces. After this effort, we plan to go to the Tenderloin and visit each of the developments individually in order to get a better idea of the spaces and what kind of retail they would be able to accommodate. Another crucial benefit of visiting these pending developments in person is being able to see them in the context of their immediate surroundings and getting an idea of what services are already being offered nearby.
More generally, our team met today to nail down our timeline moving forward and to solidify the execution of deliverables. We have chosen the date for our next trip to the Tenderloin, when we will look at pending developments and hopefully survey a number of employees and merchants of existing retail. In terms of our literature review, we plan to each read and analyze a source per week for the next three weeks. Once the review is complete, we will be better equipped to form our criteria of community-serving retail definitions and options.