ROBERT OGILVIE, NARRATOR/DIRECTOR, PLANNING FOR HEALTHY PLACES: I'm Robert Ogilvie, director of Planning for Healthy Places, a project of Public Health Law & Policy. This podcast, A Fresh Approach, explores the link between redevelopment and public health in San Francisco's Bayview Hunters Point.
San Francisco's Bayview Hunters Point is a predominantly African-American neighborhood on the southeastern edge of the city. The mostly low-income residents live close to industrial sites in a neighborhood isolated from the rest of the city by major freeways. On top of that, in the Bayview, as in many low-income areas, it can be difficult to find healthy food.
FRED BLACKWELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SAN FRANCISCO REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY: What you have is a situation where you don't have a real full-service grocery store. You've got a lot of liquor stores and bodegas, which do not have the kinds of facilities and infrastructure internally to even support the provision of healthy food.
ROBERT OGILVIE: Instead of healthy food, there's a proliferation of junk food and liquor. As a result, people in Bayview Hunters Point face high rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Residents say they want healthier food, but they have to go to great lengths to get it. Peggy Dunn spends over an hour taking two buses and BART across the Bay to Oakland to shop for groceries.
PEGGY DUNN, BAYVIEW RESIDENT: I'm trying to eat more healthier because I'm getting older, 'cause I want to live a long time.
ROBERT OGILVIE: For decades, residents have protested to get good-quality, fresh foods into local stores. In 1967, neighbors picketed outside the Super Save grocery store, demanding fresh vegetables and lower prices. Ann Berry has been involved in more recent protests at Foods Co., a neighborhood store that residents have long accused of selling spoiled foods.
ANN BERRY, MEMBER, SOUTH EAST FOOD ACCESS WORKGROUP: We wanted fresh fruits and vegetables that were just that: fresh. We wanted less white bread on the shelves. We wanted more wheat bread. We wanted organic milks. You know, things that were healthy for people.
ROBERT OGILVIE: Despite the community's efforts, those things still aren't readily available. San Francisco's redevelopment agency is working to change this. For many years, the agency has tried to convince developers to build a grocery store in the Bayview. But grocery chains have offered a range of explanations about why they can't locate there, says redevelopment agency head Fred Blackwell.
FRED BLACKWELL: Arguments that communities like Bayview Hunters Point can't support a full-service grocery store, that crime issues are a deterrent to full-service grocery stores, that the footprint that full-service grocery stores need to be successful aren't available in neighborhoods like Bayview Hunters Point. We heard all those arguments.
ROBERT OGILVIE: In order to lure a grocer, Blackwell and his staff had to take on those concerns one by one. The agency hired a market analysis firm to show that residents spend millions of dollars outside the neighborhood that would otherwise go to local businesses. It also used crime data to show that the neighborhood was safer than many thought it was.
FRED BLACKWELL: I think that the data story that we started to paint started to create a different view of the market.
ROBERT OGILVIE: Finally the city negotiated a lease with Fresh & Easy, a large, multi-national chain of supermarkets. The small but well-stocked store will be in a new building right on Third Street, in the heart of the neighborhood. Above it will be affordable family and senior housing. In the meantime, the health department and community groups convinced the redevelopment agency to invest in the small stores that are already doing business in the Bayview. The agency is now working with stores like Super Save. Sam Aloudi is the owner.
SAM ALOUDI, OWNER, SUPER SAVE: When I bought this store in 1998, it was a liquor store, I mean a typical liquor store.
ROBERT OGILVIE: But slowly Aloudi has been changing that, cutting down on liquor, adding prepared foods, and bringing in a wide variety of fresh produce.
SAM ALOUDI: Broccoli, spinach, celery, cabbage, lettuce, two kinds of lettuce...
ROBERT OGILVIE: Produce sales have increased, but Aloudi still struggles to change perceptions of his store and to attract new customers. He's applied for financial assistance from the redevelopment agency to change the store's layout.
SAM ALOUDI: The plan is to move all the produce to the front right here. Our plan is to move this, the checkstands, then to have all this area, 25 percent of the total footage of the store, to make produce displays.
ROBERT OGILVIE: Many redevelopment agencies offer programs to improve store exteriors. But it's unusual for redevelopment to fund changes to store infrastructure and to work so closely with store owners to increase healthy food offerings. Fred Blackwell.
FRED BLACKWELL: One of the efforts that we've made just to improve Super Save is really working closely with the store owner there, who's been fabulous, to go and visit other places where there are stores with a similar kind of footprint, a similar kind of niche, who have been able to make healthy food access a priority.
ROBERT OGILVIE: In other cities, redevelopment agencies have used similarly innovative strategies. They've helped establish and promote farmers markets in cities like Davis, Ceres, and Temecula. In San Diego, the redevelopment agency has invested in an urban farm. Other agencies have played important roles in attracting full-service grocery stores to underserved neighborhoods. Improving access to healthy food is just one way these agencies can work with communities, local business owners, and other government agencies to improve health. Part of what's needed, says Blackwell, is a broader culture shift within redevelopment.
FRED BLACKWELL: Left to our own devices as real estate folks, we'll just get the deal done. But if we keep ourselves around the table with folks from the human services agency and the public health department and the school district and the community development department, as well as stay connected and grounded to residents and business owners in the neighborhood, I think we'll end up with a better product -- a more arduous process but a better product.
ROBERT OGILVIE: Collaborating with the health department showed San Francisco's redevelopment agency the importance of bringing healthier food to Bayview Hunters Point. With this focus on improving health, the redevelopment agency is doing what it does best: working with businesses and developers to revitalize the community.
For Planning for Healthy Places, I'm Robert Ogilvie. For other podcasts in this series and more information on redevelopment and public health, please visit www.healthyplanning.org.
ChangeLab Solutions (formerly Public Health Law & Policy)
Robert Ogilvie, and Hannah Burton Laurison
Lyssa Rome, Paul Lancour, Geoff Triplett (GTrip Music and Sound Design), and Jessica Zdeb
This podcast was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Public Health Law & Policy and the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative.
Lydia Daniller, Jenner Davis, Anwyn Hurxthal, Robert Ogilvie, Tim Snyder, Rhonda Winter, and the San Francisco Public Library
Flickr Creative Commons:
ekai, Mattymat, Whole Wheat Toast, and yoshinari
San Francisco Department of Public Health
Susana Hennessey-Lavery and Christina Goette
San Francisco Redevelopment Agency
Fred Blackwell and Thor Kaslofsky
San Francisco Wholesale Produce Terminal
Network for Elders
Ann Berry, Peggy Dunn, and Beverly Taylor
Shape Up SF
South East Food Access (SEFA) Workgroup
Final music provided by Mevio's Music Alley: music.mevio.com