June 4, 2012

Is a mobile fresh-fruits-and-veggies vendor in a city's so-called "food desert" a good idea?

Madison is full of grocery stores, but it has a neighborhood that that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has labeled a "food desert," because there's no grocery store within walking distance. There was one, but it closed, for whatever reason. I'd imagine most people drove to that one anyway, but now the people in the area have to drive (or bike?) to do their grocery shopping. So now the owner of a campus area grocery story comes up with the idea of "a grocery store on wheels called the Freshmobile."

Something like this...



... but with a jaunty instrumental version of this. And you can just picture the desert dwellers running after it waving dollar bills, can't you?
Ald. Brian Solomon, 10th District, represents the Allied Drive neighborhood [says] “I know a lot of people in Allied that want to eat healthy food, they just don’t have access to it"...

According to Mayor Paul Soglin, the city’s vending ordinances are “not designed to encourage this kind of activity.”
But they're changing the ordinances. And the Freshmobile guy (Jeff Mauer) has "raised most of the $125,000 needed to buy the trailer, truck and equipment thanks to grants from local foundations and donations." So Mauer has all this free publicity for his downtown grocery store, people are changing laws for him, and giving him thousands of dollars to tool around town in a mobile billboard for his business... which will presumably make it all the more unfeasible for a real grocery store to want to open in the area where the old one closed.
[Mauer] said the nonprofit Freshmobile Initiative can provide low overhead costs that would help keep food prices low.
You have to know how to work the "green" liberal minds of Madison, Wisconsin. Throw enough buzzwords at them — nonprofit, under-served, affordable, access — and no one will think about your carbon footprint.

131 comments:

Calypso Facto said...

thanks to grants from local foundations and donations

Notice that Mauer is smart enough to not invest any of his OWN money on the destined-to-flop idea of selling low-margin perishables through a high-cost supply chain in a neighborhood where they're not wanted and premium prices will not be paid.

TosaGuy said...

It will be non-profit, but Mauer will still make money.

I hope he does make money, but the word "non-profit" has lost it's real meaning. It is now simply another tax dodge and a marketing word designed to appeal to those who hate all things associated with business.

Freder Frederson said...

My God you are petty. Why is this anything but a good idea?

Mr Okra in New Orleans is a local legend

TosaGuy said...

I would love to see an analysis of all non-profit entities in Madison and their impact on that city's tax base....as well as the state's

Matthew Sablan said...

I guess it is a good stop gap until someone can open a grocery store there. Smart of him not to invest his own money, and it is probably really good for his other store.

Tim said...

3Carbon footprint?

That's the least of the problem.

I'd bet anyone Mauer will throw away more fresh fruit and vegetables than he sells; soon enough, he;ll be selling sodas, chips, other snack foods and, if the law allows, beer.

Just watch.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Why is this anything but a good idea?"

-- Just because something is a good idea doesn't mean it will work. Once this starts, I find it unlikely that a real grocery store will be able to come in. Why not try and find a way to help make opening a real grocery store in the neighborhood again a viable alternative, instead of this?

Tim said...

"Why is this anything but a good idea?"

Because it won't work.

Ron said...

I'll bet the horn on that thing goes "Aruuuugala!"

tim in vermont said...

So they took advantage of free to them market research that said there was an opportunity there.

I wonder if anybody is publishing reports about "dry-cleaning deserts," or "sandwich shop desers"? "Auto parts store deserts"? These would all be good things to know.

X said...

keeping all your product behind the counter would seem incredibly racist in a fixed store.

Ann Althouse said...

"Mr Okra in New Orleans is a local legend."

Oh, great. Soundtrucks. You can only get away with stuff like that in a poor neighborhood. Middle-class people would complain about the noise and the slow-moving vehicle, competing with store owners who have to pay property taxes.

This is a throwback to 100+ years ago when peddler carts were pushed around the neighborhoods... except they didn't use fossil fuel.

Matthew Sablan said...

Tim: It might work. But, the cost will be that there may end up being a lot of wasted fruit and vegetables. Also, there will likely never be a grocery store in that area again, meaning that all the other things the convenience of having one supplies is going to have to go to other businesses instead of giving people a one-stop shop. Also, people will have to plan around the truck's visits, which is no different than a weekly trip to the grocery store, but they are now on someone else's schedule.

So, it -can- work. But at the cost of denying other options to the people it serves. It's a tradeoff that the people in the community have to decide if it is worth it.

The Drill SGT said...

I don't think he has a clue about what the term "overhead" means. If he did, or the aldermen did, they would understand that the only way this works is with subsidies from somebody, e.g. the foundation for capital expenses and the city in taxes and zoning rule changes.

why is the overhead higher?

1. is this Freshmobile a free stading non-profit or is it a subsidiary of the for profit existing store? In either case, I bet that the supplier for the non-profit is the profit enterprise. watch the prcing between the 2 entities

2. Gas of course.
3. labor costs. I am sure that the sales volume will be lower in the mobile operation. while labor costs are fixed.


why not allow some of your local "actual" farmers, sell from their trucks rather than in some farmers market arrangement. They pay taxes.

Shanna said...

Notice that Mauer is smart enough to not invest any of his OWN money on the destined-to-flop idea of selling low-margin perishables through a high-cost supply chain in a neighborhood where they're not wanted and premium prices will not be paid.

It is smart of him, actually.

I think this could work possibly if it were reclassed as a 'roving farmers market' or something, but probably not in the neighborhoods he is talking about because the prices would have to be high. But we'll see.

Hagar said...

"Non-profit" means you cannot issue stocks and pay dividends, but you certainly can accumulate cash and pay yourself a nice salary.

Otherwise, this is government accounting; the capital investment from grants and the overhead partially hidden in the city budget.

Just like the "alternative energy" business.

Tim said...

Matthew;

Your points are well taken; the externalities are undoubtedly not assessed - why think if it makes local electeds feel good? - but I'll stand by my point: they'll end up throwing away more (probably much more) fresh fruit and vegetables than they sell.

Can they delude a bunch of wanna-feel-good dupes into ongoing charitable contributions to this folly?

Undoubtedly.

Remember, 53% of voters lost their minds in November '08 for no reason. Donations to a do-gooder/do-nothing non-profit fruit and veggi peddler pales in comparison.

TosaGuy said...

Oh, great. Soundtrucks

pduggie said...

In the old days, big chain SUPER-markets were the walmarts of their time, destroying inefficient local mom-and-pop stores with their economies of scale and ruthless business practices.

And now liberals wish there were more.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Why not allow some of your local "actual" farmers, sell from their trucks rather than in some farmers market arrangement. They pay taxes."

-- They don't have the state willing to eat a good chunk of their costs to enable them to sell and start-up such a venture. That's part of the beauty of this; it gets over some of the major hurdles to serving this market, while getting someone else to also foot the bill. All while both trying to do good and bolstering your own reputation; I'm not cynical enough to believe it is a pure PR ploy, but it is a really well done plan.

I just don't know if it will work, or if the tradeoff is a good one to getting a real store there. A real store would also probably employ more people too.

tim in vermont said...

This is a similar situation to where I live, except with transport. It is an hour's drive to the airport, and we used to have private bus service. Now, however, there is a "non profit" transportation service which serves the needy, by their definition, rather than a regular bus where you pay your cash and get your ride, regardless if you meet the definition of some lefty or other for needing the transport.

Net result? More private cars making the two hour round trip with one passenger.

TosaGuy said...

"In the old days, big chain SUPER-markets were the walmarts of their time, destroying inefficient local mom-and-pop stores with their economies of scale and ruthless business practices."

In the old-old days, local stores were the Walmart of their day and were railed against by the types who now rail against Walmart, etc.

Basically, if it makes money, a certain group of people will be against it.

Matthew Sablan said...

Why not just set up a phone bank/website where people can order groceries for same day delivery? People can delivery pizza hot, I'm sure they can delivery milk and carrots cold.

Tim said...

"2. Gas of course.
3. labor costs. I am sure that the sales volume will be lower in the mobile operation. while labor costs are fixed."


And insurance. Never forget insurance.

Which won't be cheap for a large vehicle cruising up and down streets in the 'hood, spewing Co2, day after day after day.

Triangle Man said...

Baltimore solved this problem centuries ago with Arabbers. If there is a real market opportunity there, it shouldn't take a non-profit to fill the need, should it? Can he sell cigarettes and lottery tickets along with the produce?

TosaGuy said...

While I won't say that this guy will put rotting produce in this truck, but it will contain the produce pulled from his for-profit store. It won't be the freshest, best produce that he gets from his suppliers.

It is better than throwing it out and it's still better than nothing, but I hope people don't pretend this will be whole foods on wheels.

lemondog said...

What is considered 'within walking distance?'

Shouldn't walking be considered a benefit?

What caused the last grocery store to close? Poor quality, limited choice, crime?

USDA Food Desert map....

Appears to be 4 food deserts in and around Madison.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I note with disapproval that it's riding on environment-destroying rubber tires instead of rails.

Matthew Sablan said...

"It won't be the freshest, best produce that he gets from his suppliers."

-- I was worried about that, but I figure, it still has to follow the same regulations as the physical store, right? So, he shouldn't be able to sell anything from it he couldn't in his own store. At least, that's how I think it should work.

Lyssa said...

Fresh fruits and veggies as health food is a myth. If you really want the poor to eat better, teach them to cook rather than eat fast/packaged food, and sell them on the joys of frozen veggies (cheaper, keep longer, more nutritious), purchased in bulk (and cooked lightly in bacon fat).

Lyssa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Ellison said...

Ann Althouse said: ...which will presumably make it all the more unfeasible for a real grocery store to want to open...

You say that as though it's an obviously negative outcome. Must a "real grocery store" be a big, extremely low-margin, warehouse-like building that usually requires a very commercial immediate neighborhood, effectively crowding out potential residents who want the quiet of cul-de-sacs?

Freder Frederson says it's a good idea. Mightn't it be? Tim says it won't work-- a quick conclusion. Matthew Sablan echoes the Professor's conclusion that it will crowd out a potential "real grocery store".

I don't like the pseudo-charity, non-profit aspects of this story, but what if some entrepreneur did the same thing with private funds? In fact, there are already similar services.

Hagar said...

and the operating expenses will be too high, so the City Council will vote him a subsidy of some kind to support such a socially desirable enterprise.

Like I said, just like the "alternative energy" business.

DADvocate said...

In little ole Maysville, KY, there used to be a grocer who had a van that, when you called, would come pick up to shop at his store and then take you home when you were finished. He paid for it all.

It seems an enterprising grocer could do the same in Madison. Maybe run a van or small bus 2-3 times a day to pick up and return customers. That way the customers would get the benefit of the full selection of the grocery's products.

(The grocer in Maysville died 10-12 years ago. Greatly missed, but they did name a highway after him.)

Calypso Facto said...

Why not just set up a phone bank/website where people can order groceries for same day delivery?

Several groceries in Madison already offer this service.

Note too, that this "food desert" is within a mile of a Copps Supermarket, an Aldi's, and a SuperTarget with grocery.

Jane said...

Funny how "food desert" is defined: it only exists in cities where people are presumed not to have cars and to need to have a supermarket within easy walking distance. Take the same definition to suburbs and rural areas and most of the country's a food desert.

Which makes it clear that the real issue is transportation, not the density of grocery stores. I saw a feature on TV (actually I think it was on the internet, but produced by a major network) featuring an inner city black woman with a number of plastic grocery bags taking the bus home from the store, talking about how difficult it is to transport her groceries. In Europe, that person would have a utility cart/shopping cart which could transport a decent quantity of groceries and could be easily taken onto a bus and off again. Or a person without a car would ride their bike to the store. So far as I can tell, for reasons that I don't quite understand, it seems to be entirely out of the question to expect people without cars in American cities to use a bicycle (with trailer or substantial-sized basket) to transport themselves or their groceries.

EMD said...

Look! Carrots!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Bob Ellison,

Must a "real grocery store" be a big, extremely low-margin, warehouse-like building that usually requires a very commercial immediate neighborhood, effectively crowding out potential residents who want the quiet of cul-du-sacs?

You mean the quiet of cul-du-sacs with sound-trucks routinely making their rounds?

"Real grocery store" does not equal "supermarket," though the two things do overlap considerably. You can fit a lot of fresh produce, bread, dairy, and canned veggies in a fairly small storefront if you plan it intelligently.

wv: 1700 ommeroes. Sorry, I didn't order those either. Wrong address.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Note too, that this "food desert" is within a mile of a Copps Supermarket, an Aldi's, and a SuperTarget with grocery."

-- Wait. What? We're arguing this over one mile? What is that, Hell's half acre? Roving, feral wolves have claimed the territory as theirs? Death wasps?

It's a mile. There's no need for a special veggie wagon to serve something a mile from a grocery story. Not on government dollars.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Note too, that this "food desert" is within a mile of a Copps Supermarket, an Aldi's, and a SuperTarget with grocery."

-- This is all over a mile? That makes this seem... less like a good idea. Let's see if Blogger eats this comment.

SGT Ted said...

"Food desert" is subjective bullshit.

And what is considered "walking distance"? Yet more subjective bullshit I would imagine.

An excuse to inflict yet more control over businesses is what it is. Progressives always find a way to blame others for what they create with regulation and zoning, then claim more regs are needed to "fix" it, rather than maybe revoke some of the stupid regs that did the damage in the first place.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Jane,

Agreed absolutely. Here (I live in Salem, OR) I'm about a mile and a half from the nearest grocery store, which is also the site of the nearest bus stop, and I don't drive, and the walk includes a great thundering hill. I manage to do my grocery shopping on foot, and it would be completely absurd for me, or any of my neighbors, to claim to live in a "food desert."

wv: tishowic 40-44. Is it just my imagination, or are these getting more arcane daily?

TMink said...

My grandfather, Neely, made some of his living by being a truck farmer. He would grow vegetables and sell them, often to his black neighbors. The general manner of doing so was to jack up the price for people with African heritage, but Neely did not. It was not Christian he told my dad.

No government subsidy needed as people were interested in his product. Hard to sell a product that nobody wants to buy.

Trey

MayBee said...

Fresh fruits and veggies as health food is a myth. If you really want the poor to eat better, teach them to cook rather than eat fast/packaged food, and sell them on the joys of frozen veggies (cheaper, keep longer, more nutritious), purchased in bulk (and cooked lightly in bacon fat).

Exactly, Lyssa.
Fresh fruit and veggies are great, but they get expensive if you end up throwing them out for going bad.

The problem is that foodies too often get involved in food issues and want to turn people without money into foodies rather than just being wise consumers of healthy food.. This is actually something Julia Child fought with other foodies about.

John M Auston said...

Best predictor of future behavior? Past behavior.

So whatever cultural aspects caused a real store to fail, will cause this one to fail too. Same local clientele. How could the result possibly be different?

edutcher said...

Building on what SGT Ted said, isn't this whole "food desert" thing one of Moochelle's big initiatives?

Bob Ellison said...

John M Auston, perhaps a truck employing just one or two people would fare better in a small neighborhood that lacks quick access. Maybe that truck will find another neighborhood nearby that does well for late-afternoon grocery-sales.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Lyssa,

Fresh fruits and veggies as health food is a myth. If you really want the poor to eat better, teach them to cook rather than eat fast/packaged food, and sell them on the joys of frozen veggies (cheaper, keep longer, more nutritious), purchased in bulk (and cooked lightly in bacon fat).

Well, given space, the best thing is to grow your own veggies &c. Next best is, yes, as often as not canned or frozen. (Supermarket "fresh" tomatoes are particularly useless. Get the canned ones if you want something that tastes vaguely like an actual tomato.)

I have just discovered frozen chopped onions. Yahoo!

Fresh fruit are another matter. Apples and pears keep for a long time. I use frozen peaches and mangoes and the like in smoothies, and frozen blueberries constantly, but a lot of fruit do not freeze well.

Rusty said...

Freder Frederson said...
My God you are petty. Why is this anything but a good idea?

The market will decide. The market always decides.


Matthew Sablan said...
Tim: It might work. But, the cost will be that there may end up being a lot of wasted fruit and vegetables. Also, there will likely never be a grocery store in that area again, meaning that all the other things the convenience of having one supplies is going to have to go to other businesses instead of giving people a one-stop shop. Also, people will have to plan around the truck's visits, which is no different than a weekly trip to the grocery store, but they are now on someone else's schedule.

So, it -can- work. But at the cost of denying other options to the people it serves. It's a tradeoff that the people in the community have to decide if it is worth it.

Matt. If it's a good idea it will invite competition.


TosaGuy said...
While I won't say that this guy will put rotting produce in this truck, but it will contain the produce pulled from his for-profit store. It won't be the freshest, best produce that he gets from his suppliers.

It is better than throwing it out and it's still better than nothing, but I hope people don't pretend this will be whole foods on wheels.

He should also raise pig for slaughter. They can eat all the excess.

gerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shanna said...

If you really want the poor to eat better, teach them to cook rather than eat fast/packaged food, and sell them on the joys of frozen veggies (cheaper, keep longer, more nutritious), purchased in bulk (and cooked lightly in bacon fat).

Indeed, Lyssa. I think you and I trade off bringing this up every time the topic comes around…

Why not just set up a phone bank/website where people can order groceries for same day delivery?

My cousin lives in NJ and mom said she’s getting all her groceries delivered now.

I don't actually think anyone is being prevented from getting fresh veggies/fruits though. If you really want them and don't have a car you can always walk (even over a mile!) or use public transportation. I don't think this is a real issue in cities, it's mostly a bunch of people who dont' live in 'food desserts' fretting about people who do.

nichole said...

To be clear, the same store already does offer groceries "delivered, free, to a home, business, college or university in one of the 41 Madison area zip codes or use our free SHOP 'n STOP pickup service to pickup your order from our supermarket."

https://www.shopouraisles.com/fmm.asp

Shanna said...

I saw a feature on TV (actually I think it was on the internet, but produced by a major network) featuring an inner city black woman with a number of plastic grocery bags taking the bus home from the store, talking about how difficult it is to transport her groceries. In Europe, that person would have a utility cart/shopping cart

When I lived in DC that's exactly what we had, a cart we brought to the grocery store. They sold them everywhere for about 20 bucks.

Matthew Sablan said...

If they already can get it, it's not really a desert. I'm confused again.

Seeing Red said...

So one part of Progressive Madison is a no-man's land? There's no public transportation? If you don't walk or bike, you're SOL and stuck? Who would have thought?

leslyn said...

I like the word: "Fresh."

If I don't have to make my biweekly jaunt to the grocery store (a dreaded chore) the only way I get fresh produce and other items, and can get it by walkingn out my front door--SIGN ME UP!

That's like the old days of getting milk, cream, cheese actually delivered...right to your door...a luxury I only saw in the movies...MMMMMMM. Sigh.

Freder Frederson said...
"My God you are petty. Why is this anything but a good idea?"

UPDATE: Everyone fretting over how "fresh" "fresh" will be doesn't have to buy anything. I doubt you live there anyway.

Why aren't we lauding this as an inventive small business--and the city for adapting so it can work.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"If you really want the poor to eat better, teach them to cook rather than eat fast/packaged food, and sell them on the joys of frozen veggies (cheaper, keep longer, more nutritious), purchased in bulk (and cooked lightly in bacon fat)."

Indeed, Lyssa. I think you and I trade off bringing this up every time the topic comes around…

I'll join you in this topic, which is one of my personal crusades. Learn to cook and you will be healthier as well as not spending so much money or food stamps on crap food.

If a person who had a vegetable farm wanted to set up a roadside stand or truck in his/her produce on a weekly basis, the government hurdles and barriers are so high, they just give up in disgust.

S-510 for example.

Jane said...

Having groceries delivered is great -- but also expensive. Who wants to bet that his prices will have to be higher than a bricks-and-mortar store, or else will need subsidies from somewhere, to help the poor unfortunates who need it?

leslyn said...

lemondog said...
"What is considered 'within walking distance?'

"Shouldn't walking be considered a benefit?"

Fine. You do it.

Or are you suggesting that the state step in and mandate that people in neighborhoods within a certain distance of a grocery store (ah, I can see the large chains backing this now) must walk to get their groceries, because of the health benefit? Are you from New York? Do you want 44-oz soft drinks banned too?

ricpic said...

That neighborhood's a food desert because of the shoplifting that closed down its grocery store. Maybe this food truck will survive if all the food has to be passed through its window by the merchant and payed for at that point. No maybe, that's the ONLY way it will survive.

AllenS said...

Jeff Mauer can cut down on his carbon emissions by keeping the tires on his truck properly inflated. That and shutting the engine off and coasting down hills.

leslyn said...

Jane said...
"Having groceries delivered is great -- but also expensive. Who wants to bet that his prices will have to be higher than a bricks-and-mortar store, or else will need subsidies from somewhere, to help the poor unfortunates who need it?"

If his prices are more expensive than a brick and mortat store, but people want it--SO WHAT?

This reminds me of the convenience--and lovely taste--of being able to pick up your bread, fruit and veggies fresh on your way home from work--in Paris.

"Subsidies" = silliness.

Paul Zrimsek said...

That's like the old days of getting milk, cream, cheese actually delivered...right to your door...a luxury I only saw in the movies...MMMMMMM. Sigh.

You know, it's just barely possible that those old days ended for a reason.

Seeing Red said...

It's for the children, leslyn.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Why aren't we lauding this as an inventive small business--and the city for adapting so it can work

Because as an actual real small business plan, it does not make any fiscal sense. There is no way that it can pencil out and turn a profit and is doomed to failure. Which is the actual goal and purpose of a business.

Now, if you label it what it really is a charitable enterprise subsidized by the taxpayers. A shift of money from one group to another for a 'fake' small business that would never survive without being subsidized.

Re: milk delivery. I'm old enough to remember those simpler days. My mother and father both worked during the day (union printers)and us kids were in school. We had weekly delivery of milk, cream, eggs etc. The milkman, would just walk into the house, put the stuff in the fridge and leave a bill on the counter. Simpler days where everyone was trustworthy. I still remember how good the cream and milk were in those cool frosty glass bottles!!!

PatCA said...

Great idea for a PRIVATE business.

When I was a kid a man with a veggie truck would drive around and call Potatoes... in a sing songy way. With his baritone, it was kind of nice.

leslyn said...

I'd love to see the lockstep response to this post proven wrong. Maybe, just maybe, this idea will work. Would that be a shame?

It's for the children, after all.

Seeing Red said...

What they should do is get the churches involved. Heck, hold Farmers' Markets in the church parking lot.

Seeing Red said...

--love to see the lockstep response to this post proven wrong.---


What is the metric of success? No more subsidies?

Jane said...

Will this idea "work"? If he's found a market of people willing to pay higher prices for fresh produce, fine by me. But as far as I could tell, his target area is poor enough that they'll either buy at the cheapest place (Aldi, anyone?) or demand $$$ from the rest of us for their home-delivered produce.

MadisonMan said...

I know a lot of people in Allied that want to eat healthy food, they just don’t have access to it

If they really wanted it, they would find a way to get it.

I suspect this is a case of the Alderman (Isn't this the one who can rather infamously bring a woman to two orgasms with his fingers?) or someone else asking a rather leading question and then believing the answer: Would you like to have a grocery store within walking distance?

Alex said...

Notice with Freder it's all about good liberal intentions, not results. Besides who in their right mind wants a soundtruck rolling through their neighborhood blaring away as if they lived in some 3rd world hellhole?

Alex said...

Jane - no doubt he'll demand a government subsidy so he can give away his "free" produce to the poor.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"I'd love to see the lockstep response to this post proven wrong. Maybe, just maybe, this idea will work. Would that be a shame?"

Without being able to personally view his business plan, budget,projected income and expense figures, balance sheet etc. I can't say for sure that it is a dumb business plan. However, my many years in finance tells me that this cannot work without being subsidized.

His income is predicated upon people buying his product which they DIDN'T buy when it was already available in a local store and probably at a higher price than the prices that the DIDN'T pay.

His expenses are not as high as a new bricks and mortar store with multiple employees, but the cost of the refrigerated truck, gasoline, etc may actually be almost as much.

So. His business plan is to sell a product to people who didn't buy it anyway at a high cost in a moving target.

It would be NICE if it worked, but if it was a good plan it wouldn't need to be subsidized and other people would have already done it.

The Pixie Dust theory of economics never works.

Shanna said...

"What is considered 'within walking distance?'"Shouldn't walking be considered a benefit?"

Fine. You do it.


I don't know about anybody else, but I have done it. For years. (I don't anymore, but that's mostly because I moved)

Or are you suggesting that the state step in and mandate that people in neighborhoods within a certain distance of a grocery store must walk to get their groceries, because of the health benefit?

If you don't live next door to a grocery store, and most of us don't, and you want to shop (rather than order online, which is increasingly an option for many things), you have to get there somehow. Walking, or driving, or public transportation are generally the most likely options. That's just reality.

If this guys food truck does well, great. But if someone has a business plan that works, it will likely be done by the private sector at a profit. If it isn't done by the private sector and has to be heavily subsidized to work, then it's probably a bad idea.

leslyn said...

Althouse said,

"Throw enough buzzwords at them — nonprofit, under-served, affordable, access — and no one will think about your carbon footprint."

Exsqueeze me? People in a neighborhood who are now driving farther to a grocery store = a lesser carbon footprint than a food truck?

Matthew Sablan said...

Leslyn: Is this a good use of government money, when grocery stores are within a mile? The money spent on this is money not spent helping the homeless, paying salaries, fixing roads and covering health emergencies.

Is a fresh fruit and veggie wagon (in an area already well served, mind you), really worth homeless people going without food and shelter?

If he makes it work without government money, all the better. But that's not the plan.

Shanna said...

You know, what I find strange about this whole 'food desert' thing, is this strange idea that people never get more than 1/2 mile/1 mile away from your chosen residence, that it's some insurmountable obstacle. Do they think people just stay in their house or neighborhood all the times when things aren't 'walkable'? I would love to see that stats on that.

Scott M said...

You know, what I find strange about this whole 'food desert' thing, is this strange idea that people never get more than 1/2 mile/1 mile away from your chosen residence, that it's some insurmountable obstacle.

They're just preppers waiting for the EMP.

lemondog said...

Extensive walking distance would be problematic in heavy crime areas or for the disabled and senior citizens.

Madison does have online grocery shopping:

PeaPod We Deliver

I have seen Peapod delivery trucks in my area (Philadelphia)

MadTownGuy said...

The chief reason these stores closed (Cub, and before it. SuperSaver) is shrinkage, according to a family friend who was a manager at one of the stores. Any new store in the area, regardless of its type, will need a way to mitigate loss in order to make a go of it.

David said...

In the summers in northeast Pennsylvania when I was a young pup, we had one of these. Except it was a local farmer with a wagon pulled by a horse.

The horse created a different kind of environmental problem, but no government program was necessary to deal with it. Just a citizen or two with some shovels.

Fresh vegetables in winter? Forget it.

Mary Beth said...

Can the truck accept EBT cards? Judging from a quick internet search, it doesn't look like a truck that only sells produce would qualify.

David said...

Sex timing and Mr. Softee in the same day's posts?

We have a theme.

Lyssa said...

this strange idea that people never get more than 1/2 mile/1 mile away from your chosen residence, that it's some insurmountable obstacle

I've always thought that was weird, too, but my sister teaches at an inner city high school. They're literally about 20 minutes from the beach, and she tells me that many, many of the kids have literally never seen the ocean. She also says that they've never done tons of "normal" things - never been inside a bank, post office, grocery store, etc.

So, I don't know. I don't know what these people do with themselves (besides sell drugs and get knocked up - again, this is from my sister). The poor are different from you and me.

(Obviously, this is an issue of not so much can't as *don't*, but it is what it is.)

Rabel said...

Looking at the USDA food desert map linked above, it saddens me to see that many comrades on the south side of the Madison and the north side of the UW campus are forced to live a hardscrabble, hand-to-mouth, arugula deprived life in this land of plenty.

I don't know the answer, but years ago a wise man who was ahead of his time proposed a solution for another part of the world which may have an application here

World Hunger

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

leslyn,

What is considered 'within walking distance?'

"Shouldn't walking be considered a benefit?"

Fine. You do it.


I do do it. Satisfied?

wv: 52 beetscu. OK, I don't generally lug home 52 beetscu. Half a dozen, max.

Terry said...

21st cent. liberalism: a part of the world where you have problem buying food is labeled a "food desert".

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

leslyn,

This reminds me of the convenience--and lovely taste--of being able to pick up your bread, fruit and veggies fresh on your way home from work--in Paris.

You may hardly believe it, but some people buy fresh fruit, veggies, and bread on the way home from work even in America. I did it even when my commute involved a train, a ferry, a bus, and about 20 minutes on foot. Lots of marvelous fresh produce in the San Francisco Mission District.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

MadTownGuy,

The chief reason these stores closed (Cub, and before it. SuperSaver) is shrinkage, according to a family friend who was a manager at one of the stores. Any new store in the area, regardless of its type, will need a way to mitigate loss in order to make a go of it.

I don't think people realize just how small the margins are in the supermarket business. Theft kills even stores that do tremendous business if there's much of it.

Of course, if you stuck just to fruits and vegetables, you might be all right on the shrink side; people don't tend to shoplift those. The downside is that the people who might shoplift other things, but not fresh produce, aren't going to buy fresh produce either. Sometimes you can't win.

wv: poionsu, plus what I suppose is supposed to be another house number, except that the image is cropped so that you can't see anything but the extreme upper edge of the number plate. What is this, one of Andrew Sullivan's "View From My Window" contests?

leslyn said...

"Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
"leslyn,

"This reminds me of the convenience--and lovely taste--of being able to pick up your bread, fruit and veggies fresh on your way home from work--in Paris."

You may hardly believe it, but some people buy fresh fruit, veggies, and bread on the way home from work even in America. I did it even when my commute involved a train, a ferry, a bus, and about 20 minutes on foot. Lots of marvelous fresh produce in the San Francisco Mission District.

I do believe it. Though I was thinking more of certain neighborhoods in New York at the time.

Freder Frederson said...

The market will decide. The market always decides.

This statement is as ridiculous as it is false. The market doesn't always decide. The market didn't decide that we needed clean water and wastewater to make our lives better. Our country has decided that a steady supply of food is more important than leaving the food supply to the market. We subsidize the growing of some crops (especially corn, sugar, soybeans, dairy products, beef, pork and chicken) at the expense of others (generally leafy vegetables are not subsidized). We put in place massive irrigation, inland waterways, and road networks--all paid for by the taxpayer--to speed vegetables and fruit from mainly two remote corners of the U.S. (California and Florida) to the rest of the nation.

When I hear you advocating kicking ranchers off federal lands or eliminating all crop subsidies and tariffs, then we can start complaining about the minimal subsidy required to get fresh fruits and vegetables to underserved areas

X said...

reminds me of WebVan, whose business model was selling high priced groceries to people who couldn't drive to the store, old people and poor people, who weren't known for wanting to pay high prices. massive failure.

leslyn said...

I've been waiting for someone to demonstrate that this venture is "government subsidized," as the meme here is repeated.

What we do know from the post is that Mauer raised most of the money from "grants from local foundations and donations." No other description. No indication that the "local foundations" were "government subsidized." Everything else is assumptions.

And you know what assumptions do....

X said...

leslyn doesn't think foundations are subsidized.

leslyn said...

I'm not assuming that the ones involved here are. Because we don't know, do we?

X said...

leslyn whether they get a direct subsidy or not, they get donations that the donors use to reduce their tax bills, an indirect subsidy.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shanna said...

Obviously, this is an issue of not so much can't as *don't*

You’re right, I guess. It’s just really, really weird. I think if people were motivated they would go where they needed to go and that’s where I come down on it. I lived in a city without a car for 4 years and it never stopped me from getting anywhere within 10/20 miles.

We subsidize the growing of some crops

We also subsidize people not to grow crops! Isn’t that brilliant? (also subsidizing certain crops over others is a bad idea, for lots of reasons – I don’t think you’ve proved your point).

leslyn said...

@Michelle Dulak Thomson:

:o)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

[Deleted previous one due to stupid typo]

leslyn,

And you know what assumptions do....

Of course. They make an "ass" out of "u" and "mptions."

Rusty said...

Freder Frederson said...
The market will decide. The market always decides.

This statement is as ridiculous as it is false. The market doesn't always decide. The market didn't decide that we needed clean water and wastewater to make our lives better. Our country has decided re important than leaving the food supply to the market. We subsidize the growing of some crops (especially corn, sugar, soybeans, dairy products, beef, pork and chicken) at the expense of others (generally leafy vegetables are not subsidized).that a steady supply of food is mo We put in place massive irrigation, inland waterways, and road networks--all paid for by the taxpayer--to speed vegetables and fruit from mainly two remote corners of the U.S. (California and Florida) to the rest of the nation


(Sigh)
The market doesn't always decide. The market didn't decide that we needed clean water and wastewater to make our lives better.

Um. Yes they did.
What are markets, Freder?

Our country has decided re important than leaving the food supply to the market. We subsidize the growing of some crops (especially corn, sugar, soybeans, dairy products, beef, pork and chicken) at the expense of others (generally leafy vegetables are not subsidized)

I totally agree. Let's get rid of all farm subsidies. Subsidies artificially increase prices anyway. You're learning


We put in place massive irrigation, inland waterways, and road networks--all paid for by the taxpayer--to speed vegetables and fruit from mainly two remote corners of the U.S. (California and Florida) to the rest of the nation

Most of it is moved by rail(private).

But you just keep believing.

Your task today is come up with a definition of markets. You will be graded.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

leslyn,

Foundations are non-profits; therefore contributions to them are tax-deductible for the donors. To the extent that we consider income transferred to some entity but not taxed to be in effect a government subsidy, they are subsidized.

I personally don't think of it that way, because it seems to suggest that a chunk of everyone's income belongs to the government already unless your using it for particular purposes persuades it to keep its mitts off, but there it is.

Bryan C said...

"The market didn't decide that we needed clean water and wastewater to make our lives better."

You don't really understand the term "market", do you Freder?

TMink said...

"The market didn't decide that we needed clean water and wastewater to make our lives better."

Yeah Freder! That is why the government has to make our bottled spring water, our bottled filtered water, our water with caffeine, our water with vitamins, our water with . . .

Oh wait.

Never mind.

Trey

Freder Frederson said...

You don't really understand the term "market", do you Freder?

And you really don't understand what the words "public" or "municipal" when we refer to public or municipal water supplies and sewage systems.

Most of it is moved by rail(private).

Most fresh food is moved by truck on government funded roads. Even if it were true that most fresh food moved by rail, you are completely ignoring history if you believe the rail network in this country was privately funded.

David said...

Here's another good idea:

A fleet of small busses, or subsidized taxis, or perhaps an ultra cool light rail system, that would whisk the poor people from the poor neighborhoods to the Madison Farmer's Market every weekend so they could buy fruits and veggies side-by-side with the liberal swells. I have noticed a distinct shortage of poor looking (and brown colored) people at the Farmer's market. This must change. How about a small surcharge (no more than 10%) on items purchased at the farmer's market by the swells to finance this. Or move the whole damn market to the poor and brown people's neighborhoods. That would solve the traffic problem in the square too.

Freder Frederson said...

Subsidies artificially increase prices anyway.

Some do and some don't. Sugar tariffs certainly do make sugar in this country more expensive than it would otherwise do. But on the other hand, grain subsidies make meat (since most of our beef, chicken and pork is fed with subsidized grain) and grain based food much cheaper than it would be otherwise.

PatCA said...

Hope the guy gets a kevlar vest to go driving through the bad neighborhoods.

X said...

And you really don't understand what the words "public" or "municipal" when we refer to public or municipal water supplies and sewage systems.

and you really don't understand what the word "refer" means. generally you have to reference something first to say you have referred to it.

David said...

Freder Frederson said...

"And you really don't understand what the words "public" or "municipal" when we refer to public or municipal water supplies and sewage systems."

Freder, take a look at the financials of the Madison Metropolitan Sewer District. You will see that it is a business which is entirely financed by user fees. No one has an interest in the "profits" of the business since they are reinvested in the very expensive enterprise. The taxpayers do not fund this. The users do. This is generally true for most to the stuff (highways especially) that you think are funded by tax revenue.

I sit on the board of a metro sewer system in South Carolina that serves a couple of hundred thousand people. We get no taxpayer support. We must live within the discipline of a budget and use our cash flow to maintain, improve and extend our system.

Then look at what happened to the sewer programs in Atlanta, Washington DC and many smaller communities where this discipline was not present. They ended up in receivership by the EPA because their systems were failing or in bankruptcy receivership.

The market definitely decided in those cases and is deciding for all governments. The market is deciding for California, which is going bankrupt as business flees whenever it can. It's deciding for Greece and Spain. It will decide for the United States sooner than you think, because the cost of borrowing will soar for our country and we might even be faced with the need to default on our debt.

I don't know what you do for a living Freder but believe me, sooner or later the market decides everything.

David said...

Freder, you do not understand farm subsidies. They do not reduce the price for the consumer. They increase the profit for the farmer. Farm subsidies are a direct income transfer from taxpayers to a private industry (farmers.) Consumers, whether or not taxpayers, also bear a portion of these costs, because in nearly all cases farm subsidies have the effect of increasing price to the consumer.

lemondog said...

Or move the whole damn market to the poor and brown people's neighborhoods...

Yeah, but then would you have to pay the swells to go shopping there?

David said...

Take education, Freder. Public secondary education. Definitely taxpayer funded. Subsidized, if you will. But there's a market. Those who can afford to move to places where the education is good. Those who can not afford to are fucked. They are fucked because, in large areas like some of our biggest cities, there is no market, no competition. There really is no market for teachers either, at least in places where the unions have made teachers unfireable. Eventually, when it gets bad enough, the entire system will collapse, as it has in Detroit and could in (say) Milwaukee. The people, white and black, who can get away from the failed system do so. The ones who can not are fucked. Yet the liberals and their supporters prop up the corrupt, failed monopoly and pretend it can continue. It can continue for a while, while people lack alternatives.

This is why I still view Obama's most despicable act as the elimination of school vouchers in Washington, DC. He and his kids have a market alternative. The poor kids are fucked. Obama to school kids: You are so fucked. Deal with it. (Michelle will come to read you stories once or twice in 4 years though.)

Scott M said...

Yeah, but then would you have to pay the swells to go shopping there?

"Go out west somewhere. Open a fine restaurant. I'm gonna be the maitre d'. Greet all the swells. Go to work every day in a bow tie,
tuxedo. And all the staff say 'yes, sir' and...'no, sir'..."

Freder Frederson said...

This is generally true for most to the stuff (highways especially) that you think are funded by tax revenue.

No, you are wrong. Although gas taxes and user fees do fund a portion of highway construction, the gas tax raises 25 billion while Federal transportation spending is 40 billion. Most of the balance comes from general revenues. Most states don't fund their highways exclusively out of gas taxes either.


I sit on the board of a metro sewer system in South Carolina that serves a couple of hundred thousand people. We get no taxpayer support

So your POTW can't issue municipal bonds? You're not eligible for low cost loans or grants from the state and/or federal government for capital improvements? Homeowners can opt out of sewer service? (I realize in some, especially rural areas, there is an option to forgo sewer and public water service, but for most people who live in suburban and urban areas, it is not really an option, and is generally mandatory to get an occupancy permit.) In

David said...

Do I make myself clear Freder. I assume that your concern for the poor and less powerful is genuine. I pray that some day you will see how badly these people are being fucked over by liberal policies. Sometimes just through inadvertence. Sometimes, as in the case of cynical Obama and his voucher genuflection to the teachers unions, very deliberately and cynically.

And now our government is fucking over my grandchildren. Trillions of dollars Every Fucking Year the they will have to pay off, and an economy that could be shackled for decades by overwhelming debt if we do not deal with it soon.

What's Obama's plan for this? Does he have one? He's Barrett, at a national scale. Even if you believe his tax increases won't damage the economy, they are not even close to bridging the gap. Obama has no plan, or he has no courage. If he had a plan, he would have been selling it during his first term. Instead he hides out and defers. No guts, no glory, Barack. And you had such a great shot at glory, you magnificent bullshitting fuckup.

Alex said...

David - explain to me how America can ever climb out of this debt morass. It's not possible. This is what future historians will write about - "The Ruination of a Republic". That's if we have any civilization in 50 years.

Freder Frederson said...

and you really don't understand what the word "refer" means. generally you have to reference something first to say you have referred to it.

POTW


Happy now?

lemondog said...

re: debt-

1. Default
2. Inflate

David said...

It is possible, Alex. But you have to start now rather than waiting for the crisis. Back in the 1980's, many felt that we just could not break inflation. The only way to do it would be ruinous interest rates. So Reagan was elected, Fed got some balls and we had interest rates of over 15% because of fed policies. Was it ruinous? Were the Reagan tax cuts ruinous (read the lefty warning cries on that.) No, just the opposite.

Now, we need to cap federal spending. Nobody thinks we can do it. Everyone is used to all the agencies, all the subsidies, all the spending. How can we possibly live without it?

Well, we can. You do not even need to cut. Keep taxes at the current level. Stop increasing spending for half a decade or so. That includes :entitlements." Bureaucrats will lose jobs. Govt. pay raises will stop. The private sector will grow and tax revenues will grow as expenditures remain flat.

We can't imagine doing it because we never have. But it can be done.

David said...

Freder we can issue bonds but have rarely done so. Grants are minuscule. We do borrow at reasonably good rates from the state revolving loan fund, but these are basically market rates, which are very low these days. Developers and users pay for the system. And our rates are among the lowest in the region.

The rates have to be low Because We Are In A Market. If we want to attract jobs and employers and residents, we have to offer reasonable costs. The market requires it.

(And by the way one of our weaknesses is education, weak in part because there are no alternatives to the decently funded but inconsistently effective school system. We are not a wealthy place. We have no effective school unions, but don't fire-ism and lack of pay for performance has taken root here nevertheless. Many of our kids--and disproportionately among poor African-Americans, are not being prepared for the job markets they will face.)

This really pisses me off, Freder, because it does not have to be that way.

X said...

Happy now?

does time progress linearly in your part of the multiverse?

Freder Frederson said...

does time progress linearly in your part of the multiverse?

As usual, I gave too much credit to the intelligence of Althouse commenters. I made the comment about water treatment because I assumed anybody who would be commenting on these issues would be familiar with the term "Publicly Owned Treatment Works"

Sorry for overestimating your knowledge and intelligence.

Erika said...

David, your comments here have been magnificent. Well done, good sir.

Tim said...

"You know, what I find strange about this whole 'food desert' thing, is this strange idea that people never get more than 1/2 mile/1 mile away from your chosen residence, that it's some insurmountable obstacle."

Hmmm. I know if anyone did an overlay between "food deserts, "diabetes rates" and "obesity rates", they'd find a high correlation between the three.

Odd that so many obese diabetics live in "food deserts"...

Iapetus said...

What a hoot! It's back to the 1940s and 1950s. When I was a young child growing up, my family and everyone else in our neighborhood bought their fruit and vegetables from Charlie the fruit man, who came twice a week in his big truck to sell us fresh produce. No one in our neighborhood bought their fruit and veggies from the A&P supermarket. It's Back to the Future!

Shanna said...

Odd that so many obese diabetics live in "food deserts"...

You proposed a study yourself and then assumed your results and made comments based on them. You also don't seem to know the meaning of
'correlation is not causation'.

Shanna said...

@ Tim, you also made no comment whatsoever on the reason why 1/2 mile considered a major obstacle and what you propose to do about it.

I have lived in a 'food desert' before. You adjust. It's not a big deal.

Lava said...

3 stores have closed in Allied over past 10 years. There are at least 3 stores within 10-15 minute bus ride. 90%+, maybe 95+% of residents have cars (at least one). Allied is a small, isolated neighborhood, and proposed WisDOT projects won't help at all long-term...making a grocery in the area impossible given the market. Really time to think about improving cooking for residents than continuing to talk about this.

Rusty said...

Perhaps.,Freder, you over estimate your own.

What is a subsidy?

Isuspect you know the answers to both questions that I 'ge asked. Ithink the answers conflict with your ideology.