OTTAWA, May 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Does building a Wal-Mart or other discount
food retailer benefit a city's neediest people?
Not if those stores are built at the edges of a city in areas designed to
be accessible by car, says Melanie Bedore, a PhD candidate studying geography
at Queen's University.
If they really want to help their poorest residents, she says cities
should be doing more to maintain the commercial viability of older,
established neighbourhoods - areas where customers come to shop on foot or by
Bedore, who will be presenting an examination of retail food geography at
the Congress of the Humanities and Socials Sciences which is being held at
Ottawa's Carleton University this week, said she became interested in the
geography of grocery stores after watching three full-service food stores in
Kingston close over the space of a few years.
Those stores, she says, were located in older neighbourhoods with many
low-income residents. In other words, she says, the stores were closing in
places where people needed them the most. New stores were opening - but often
these were large stores built on virgin land at the edge of town in areas
poorly served by transit.
Bedore says one resident told her a trip to the store now took one hour
on the bus. Bedore says there's an assumption that retail is ruled exclusively
by free market rules - that if a grocery or other store is meant to be
somewhere it will survive, and that if it closes it's because it's not
But she says municipal governments can help improve the chances for
retail not by forcing a store into a neighbourhood, but by improving the
overall business atmosphere and making sure the neighbourhoods are safe and
For example, Bedore says a lot of older neighbourhoods have old strip
malls that are under-used. She says that improving the attractiveness of older
communities will make retailers more likely to invest there.
"It's really unfair that the people in cities who bear the greatest cost
of travelling to buy something like food are also the ones who are least able
to bear that cost," she says.
"Cities should be guiding the commercial/retail planning in areas where
people have the greatest need for accessibility and affordability, instead of
assuming that a city's retail geography is a perfect democracy."
Organized by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social
Sciences, Congress 2009 brings together over 8,000 researchers from Canada and
around the world.
For further information:
For further information: Congress media room, (613) 520-3552; Caitlin
Kealey, Manager of Communications, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and
Social Sciences, (613) 513-9756; www.fedcan.ca/experience