The food deserts of Memphis: inside America’s hunger capital | Divided Cities

The food deserts of Memphis: inside America’s hunger capital | Divided Cities

Right now, there are 23.5 million
Americans who live in what we call ‘food deserts’. We wanted to come up with
priorities, what were the needs in the larger South Memphis area and one thing
that came up over and over again was access to food. You can easily get to a
McDonald’s and there’s food on every block, it’s just not high-quality food. We blame the individual for so long and it’s not the individual’s fault. There’s a lot of money in Memphis and
there’s a lot of poverty. You know, we have parts of South Memphis
where whole streets and blocks are just vacant. It’s like a war, that people left due to some
catastrophe but it was just white flight and sprawl. And so what used to be a small
family-owned grocery store is now a vacant building and on one end of it,
they have a liquor store. That’s typical of South and North Memphis. Nobody is going to be attracted in terms
of grocery stores, retail to an area that is sparsely populated and looks
and feels dangerous. So, a food desert by basic definition is
a place where the majority of residents don’t have access to what
we call a supermarket. And a large percentage of the
residents don’t have transportation. From our office in South Memphis, our
closest supermarkets are 2.3 miles and 2.5 miles away respectively and one-third of our residents don’t have access to an automobile. My name is Dolores Bateman. I have five children. I stay in South Memphis. I work for elementary school as a janitor. A couple of years ago, it was a grocery
store right up here across the street but it’s been shut down for
over 10 years now. It’s just an empty building. Without transportation, I have to call
and ask someone to come and take me to
the grocery store or maybe catch a bus and it takes like 45 minutes to an hour
just to get to the grocery store. So, when I go to the grocery store this is some
of the basic food that I buy. I buy lasagna, spaghetti, rice … There’s noodles, I have
our canned vegetables, the basic meats … Right here, chicken, pork chops … Basic food. And over here,
I have the kind of quick food. We have corn dogs, burritos, things like that. When I go to the convenience store,
it’s not much I can feed them there. I have to feed them like something quick,
they’re not going to get full off of. But if I go to the grocery store, I get a
chance to cook a four-course meal. Hey, how are you? This is a typical Memphis
convenience store. They have a little produce which I’m proud. They have some potatoes and onions. But if you notice right behind,
there are sodas. Two-litre sodas and snack foods, so
cookies and chips and candy and Kool-Aid. Whole aisles of chips. Even more soda. Sugary American breakfast food, cereals. Mechanically separated chicken which is
already kind of scary sounding. Contains 2% or less of beef, pork, and so those are
the type of ingredients that you’re getting. This is pretty typical of what people have
access to just walking up in their neighbourhood. So the ingredients in grape drink … I don’t know what anything
is other than water. My name is Michelle Williams.
I live in South Memphis. I’ve been here in all my life. They used to have grocery stores in
South Memphis, now they don’t. So, I had to go to the bus stop
and I had to wait on the 4 Walker. and I rode it to the North Terminal. And then I transfer to a 2. The journey to the grocery store takes,
I’d say, an hour and a half if the bus comes on time. When I go to the grocery
store, I get everything that I need. Having to take two buses is stressful
and it’s frustrating but I still had to go, you know,
to have food in the house. East Memphis is a majority white, upper
middle class and wealthy area. Affluent people who own multiple automobiles have
choices and much access to fresh food. And so, we’re in a parking lot of a
well-known brand, Whole Foods, and across the street,
there is a national grocery store chain. That same chain has a very upscale store
on the other side of the movie theatre and just a mile and a half away,
is a Sprouts grocery store. Not even a mile east of here is a Fresh Market. This is very different
from the experience of Memphians four or five miles north of here, six miles
south-west of here in South Memphis in the most distressed neighbourhoods. The irony is that as integration of
neighbourhoods became more prevalent, a lot of folks moved out of those
neighbourhoods. So, the people that remained where we
now have these food deserts are people that simply did not have the resources to move. The challenges are multiple. When grocery store operators look at:
can they make money? The answer from their perspective
is: possibly but probably not. So this site is one of
the sites that we identified as a potential location for a
grocery store in South City. This probably would have been the most ideal
site for a grocery store operator. The property was on the market – it was at a
price point frankly that was just above our ability to pay as well as try to
provide incentives to the grocery store operator to make it an economically viable opportunity. So over time it’s now been acquired by one
of our local craft brewery companies and they’re building a brewery that
hopefully will provide some jobs for the residents. It will help them from an economic standpoint,
it’ll be a great addition to the city but unfortunately it won’t be available
for a grocery store. Redlining is a federal policy from the 1930s. The Federal Housing Administration
and policy makers decided to work with the lending institutions to draw maps, to talk about where it was best to lend
their money for residential mortgages. They talked about the high-risk areas
where they did not want to make investments because the chance of them
being repaid were low and those areas and cities look like areas where
moderate and poor people lived and where black and minorities lived. When banks won’t make investments
in residential mortgages, they also don’t make
investments in small businesses. The sad part is that this redlining map is
almost identical to how lenders make residential mortgages in 2019. Can you help me find all the grains or starches? I was trained to educate families
on healthy eating. Common health issues we see with our patients range from pre-diabetes to full-blown type 2
diabetes to hypertension, to elevated blood pressure … These are things that we
commonly were thinking of with your middle-aged parents or even grandparents
and now we’re seeing them in children that are eight, nine and 10 and fourth
grade and middle school. Zucchini, that’s a weird word . Zucchini.
– Zucchini. Sounds like bikini. Bikini? Yeah! That’s what we are chopping today. Every corner you turn,
there’s always a fast food restaurant but if we can get more restaurants in
our city where you can eat healthy food, especially in certain communities in
certain areas, we would actually love that. We blame the individual for so long and
we have to start seeing that that’s not working. It’s not the individual’s fault. It is our entire environment and we’re not going to see changes in health until
we go out into the community and create change. South Memphis farmers market is
in its 10th season. It came about because
of a neighbourhood plan called the South Memphis
revitalisation action plan. We wanted to come up with priorities, what
were the needs in the neighbourhood and one thing that came up over and over
again was access to food. I’m one of the seniors that over the years,
things have just moved away from us. So when works brought this to us,
this was a godsend. We should have more of these. I’m loving it. The gatekeeper of income, lower poverty, house in
my home is a feared giant in the seven kingdoms. The next time my dad gotta pay
for our food with stamps your mouths better stay shut. Your eyes better stay glued
to your grocery bag to the woman who said my cousin was a burden. To the man who said my EBT card is an eyesore Isn’t this American flag looking at me ain’t enough? Imagine.


  1. I seen a bright young group of black college kids wearing Trump hats and T shirts and talking about leading their people off the plantation on the news at the Virginia 2nd amendment rally. They really gave me hope for the future of our country.

  2. Let me guess…it's all white people's fault because they don't like the color of their skin. Why are there so many fat people claiming they're starving?

  3. Total BS. A grocery store that's 3 miles away is not a tragedy. Most of us don't live next door to a grocery store and most people have to drive to the grocery store regardless of where they live. Everywhere. There are more fast food restaurants than grocery stores. Everywhere. The fact that junk food is more readily available than healthy food is a reality Everywhere. It is not a poor or rich issue. And how do they get to the fast food restaurants anyway? Bus? So, if the issue is transportation and public transportation is available, then don't whine. Take the bus to a grocery store instead of to McDonalds.

  4. That one rather large woman doesn't look like she lives in any kind of desert! This is about education and lack of it!

  5. Japan has the same problem but are combatting the problem by having mobile grocery trucks visit the area. Someone should look into this as a possible solution.

  6. Meanwhile in the highlands of Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 our nearest supermarket is 42 miles away and they are complaining about 2 miles??

  7. Should have community gardens.. they provide so many benefits- exercise, sunshine, being out in nature, education, and fresh healthy food. They are cheap to start up. It’s free to rent a plot and usually if a little money can be funded you can have tools for all to use and share.

  8. How is this being addressed with Dr. Ben Carson? Has anyone of these community leaders called his office? Emailed?

  9. I mean I guess it comes down to money but I actually thought connivence store food was more expensive than grocery store food (at least where I live in Canada )

  10. when I grew up the nearest store was 17 miles away…..not grocery store ,but a store. We ate healthy as hell. Did you see all the unhealthy foods in the cabinets.
    Also I checked Memphis is one of the most obese cities in America.
    Also South Memphis is a high crime area which business tend to stay away from due to robberies.

    Come on tell all the truth!

  11. What stupidity. If it was profitable for supermarket companies to operate in those neighborhoods, don't you think they would? High levels of crime, rampant shoplifting, food stamp recipients only doing their shopping at the beginning of the month when their card gets re-charged.

  12. This seems to be more of an issue of very limited public transport for the whole city! Improve the bus system so it runs frequently to major shopping centres and this problem will reduce.

  13. 5 children?? Oh come on. It's like the movie Idioacracy you can blame "the man" all you want but if you clearly can't afford kids don't have 5. It's common sense and It's flat out selfish too do so. Kids aren't a "right" it's a privilege

  14. First, the American society is terrible. You think you live in the greatest country but your average condition is comparable to the poorest African country.. if you do not have money, you cannot afford anything since you do not have an actual state caring for its citizens. That being said… if you are in troubles, wtf is “I HAVE 5 CHILDREN”?! These people do not have brains neither

  15. Where I went to school there was a Kroger directly across the street from a Kroger.
    Both have been doing very well for years because not MOST of the people are stealing more than they PURCHASE.

  16. Seems like transportation is the big gating issue because like they say – hard to justify dropping a store somewhere where payback isn’t guaranteed. Grocery stores are screwed as is. Tech will hopefully solve these peoples’ problems either with direct delivery to customers or pooled car ownership. Going to be a while though – real bummer for these guys

  17. Why don t the Poor Start to Organize and start GROWING Their own VEGETABLES and FRUITS.????TAKE ACTIO PEOPLE!!!!

  18. This story is common, so common that I wonder why people are confused by it. The goal is to kill black people duh.
    However, I’m confused by ; a couple of years ago there was a grocery store but it’s been closed for 10 years 😒.

  19. I have a question and I hope someone from US answers. Isn't it possible for the people who don't have this easy access to supermarkets to grow their own food? Let's say salad, tomatoes, potatoes? You can do this even on 3 square meters of land.

  20. 3:37 she's obese because of all that processed food. The stuff in cans, grains, and ready-made freezers meals did it. She's jacked her insulin levels from carb overconsumption. It'd take her 5 years to lose all that weight.

  21. I have a feeling it's their own doing, the white man didn't forbid any grocery stores from opening in those areas, as it was said in the video, those areas are unsafe, who would want to open a business there?

  22. This documentary is a little disingenuous because most of the folks that live in those parts of Memphis- aren’t interested in healthy eating and would turn their nose up at a fresh salad 🥗
    Lastly, the reason that all the grocery stores shut down or left the area was because of hoodies robbing those places and Bebe’s Kids shop lifting until running the stores off.

  23. I know these points have been mentioned but;
    Did anyone see a single patch of cultivated garden in any of those abandoned lots ?
    Does anyone think that Dolores Bateman has problems accessing food ?
    This is a problem of organization that won't be sorted out at the White House level. Shopping, cooking and delivering food can be organized and paid for locally. If there are unemployed, under-employed or fat people with uncultivated land in your community don't complain to the president about it.

  24. I don't see the point of mixing race into it when she said "East Memphis is a predominantly white, rich community". The fact is, East Memphis is an area where people, whatever color, have more money and so there are more shops. These shops aren't there cause the people are white but because of the extra disposable income. People there aren't better off because they are white but because of other socioeconomic factors. The only way this can be solved is with the government providing free education and other mechanisms for people in the run down areas to climb the ladder and be able to live in the better off areas. We have the same situation where I live and the run down area is a white area but you have the same scenery.

  25. Simply vote red =remove every Democrat.. remember how they built fixed our new worst coast… think vote smart. blexit America .

  26. 3 km to reach closest supermarket in a suburban area… Oh come on! XD what's next?
    "We need beds with toilets, since I can't get to bathroom without a car!'

  27. I find it difficult to understand why people who can't afford to have children go ahead and have so many. I guess it has to do with religion and culture maybe. I left the US and moved to India where there were job opportunities. Even though I'm doing well now and have been married for 5 years, I still don't plan on having kids, cause they are expensive. Instead, I save more than 50% of my income and invest it for the future.

  28. My church is in Binghampton, Memphis, TN. Poverty and crime are high. There is a non profit org called Binghampton Devel Corp was able to get a Save Alot and Dollar General to build in the community. Fresh and affordable food available within walkin distance for most residents. It is very very possible to profit from a low income area. Theres also land where a community garden can be cultivated. It takes a community.

  29. As a skinny European with anxiety towards my everyone around me I'm just trying to learn about the only problems I don't have.

  30. you need a better transit system and your government needs to stop subsidizing junk food and put that same cash into healthy options instead. if people start farming more for themselves, Monsanto will make sure seed prices skyrocket and will make fertile seeds very hard to find. most GMOs have "terminator" genes which ensure that future crops do not survive and depend on tech-heavy manipulation to germinate. You have no idea how hard large corporations and government have been working, together, on screwing people. the rich need the poor to stay poor – if everyone has what they need, wealth loses all value and the economy collapses.

  31. This is something that you dont see on the east coast as even the smallest towns have at least 8000 people in a relatively small area, meaning no matter what every town has at least 2 supermarkets.

  32. Governments have the power to address this issue but they wont regardless which party you elect or which country you live. Once they have power , they have their own agenda .

  33. in my area the low income areas have grocery stores, I guess I'm lucky in a way the local groceries sell lots of food food because there is a high immigrant population here and they won't buy processed foods.

  34. Only in America are the "hungry" massively overweight. Supermarket chains don't want to move into those areas because of the violence and theft. And even if stores did open up in those areas the locals would still eat trash, sell their SNAP cards for cash they could blow on booze, drugs and cigarettes. The fresh fruit and veggies would end up in the trash in favor of soda and pizza.

  35. I started crying watching this. I was raised upper middle class. I'm now disabled living with my husband. I had no clue people lived like this. I wish I could take food to some of these people. This is horrible. These people where forgotten by the rich.

  36. In AC, NJ and don't have a normal supermarket. Many bodega'sa and only 1 limited supermarket. Combined casino take in Jan 20 was the greatest ever. Unfortunately u must drive at least 10 miles. The main reason for this is due to Theft by customers…..
    What is wrong with this picture??

  37. I think in areas were there are no grocery stores, there should be stores that are sponsored by the state or city and are required to carry a range of healthy foods. Maybe deals with local farmers and weekly farmers markets could help. I addition there should be programs to teach people to grow their own food. It seems like a lot of these people have lots of garden space despite being poor, and empty plots could be bought for community gardens. Memphis climate is fine for growing a wide range of vegetables and fruits.

  38. My 600 LBS Life makes more meaning now .
    It is horrible . People work, shed sweat and with their money they can only buy cancer , morbid obesity , diabetes , heart failure .
    You can't grow your own food , no , you will get eviction.
    Very nice, legally an area is sentence to death but painfully ,even prisoner in death row gets a injection for a painless death.

  39. I mean 47 minutes walking is a lot when you weigh the weight two adult males, like, I know this seems like a travesty but there are some african women who has to travel like 2 hours to get water? Get over yourselves. I heard Americans were fat and lazy but jeez.

  40. It is the individuals fault. You all depend on the system to work for you. But it works for the right peoples pockets. Stop depending on the goverment. Start depending on your hands , feet , and brain.

  41. Nobody tell you to eat the bad stuff you choose to eat what you want. It’s sad to see mf be so big and not healthy. No exercise no daily walks just eat. When I got pregnant I ate I gained weight but it won’t be like that forever for me. I love being outside feeling the sun on my skin or breeze. That fast food is sickening and that’s how they want trying to kill us humans instead of making fruit stands or making sure the fruit is right and on time for us. They don’t want that it’s just sad. I’m gone be quiet cause I be wanting to say a lot more but sometimes you gotta let go and give it to the lord. Praying for people to get healthy and destroy those fast food places

  42. I'm french, my 15 years old penpal lives in Memphis, so it is really interesting (and weird to me) to see how BIG are the culture's differences. Especially when it comes to food

  43. I love Memphis, spent more than half of my life there, amazing people. I hate to see the poorer parts of Memphis continue to deplete while the wealthy continue to build and thrive 😔

  44. This is why Hawaiian eat spam like it chicken. This is by design. The white woman bless her heart has great intention. She is the mercenary and racism is the military. Same tactic nothing new.

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