I’m often told by various visitors to the Adirondacks how lucky I am to live here year-round. Yes, there are a lot of good things about living here. I know most of the people in the area, we’re very much “small town” in both population and attitude. I don’t have to lock my doors or my car, and it’s not uncommon to see a car left running while someone goes in to check their mail or grab something from one of the convenience stores. Having lived in cities, the difference in noise and attitudes is remarkable. Those are the upsides, but there’s a downside: I live in a desert.
Oh, not what people think is a desert. It’s not dry, sandy (OK, there is a lot of sand), and treeless. It’s a “food desert.”
A food desert is a district with little or no access to large grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. Instead of such stores,these districts often contain many fast food restaurants and convenience stores.
While the Wikipedia article stresses urban environments, it’s also quite common in rural environments – including this one. It didn’t used to be one, but three years ago the local grocery store closed. While there are a number of reasons for it’s closure – principally poor management – the problem is that it hasn’t been replaced. Oh, the locally-owned convenience store has been doing a good job of trying to fill in the blanks, and the chain convenience store has some other options, but despite that, neither one of them offers the range that the grocery store did – particularly when it comes to fresh or frozen foods.
For those, the nearest grocery store is 20 miles away, or if you’re heading in another direction, 25 miles. After those, you’re looking at an additional 30-40 miles before you get to a major chain. So any shopping I want to do, particularly if I’m trying to put more fruits and vegetables into my diet (or keep doing so), involves a lot of travel. Given the winter weather in this area, it can be difficult to make it. I’m lucky in that I have a good vehicle and can make the trip when needed. Not all of the people here can do so.
There have been ongoing efforts to re-open the local grocery store, but they run into some of the problems which face all of the communities in the area. The main one is … population. This area has never been “heavily populated,” but over the past two decades it’s hemorrhaged people, mainly young ones. Schools that used to have a “big class” of 30 kids now are lucky to have a dozen. One of the local schools graduated a class of … one. While the Adirondacks are very popular for a “second homes” or “investment properties,” that same popularity has created the situation where there’s a lack of affordable housing. So our population is getting older, and sparser. A recent economic study pointed out that there may not be a sufficient population to support a store. While we’re hoping to work around that, it’s going to be a problem.
So while people think of the good things when they tell me how lucky I am to live here, they don’t always see the problems, which is the title of this blog. Welcome to the Adirondacks … and the desert.