IOTI: Gentrification 9, 2022

Gentrification: the process whereby a poor urban area is changed by higher income people moving in, pushing the lower income out. Home and business owners are bought out by such gentrifiers, and the land is replaced with “improved housing” and “attractive new businesses”, upping the price and value of the neighborhood–namely, building corporations made available only to wealthier people. As this cycle of pushing the lower income out continues worldwide, it further prevents them from moving into an area that was previously affordable. Indicators of gentrification: less social diversity, from rental to homeownership, renovations to infrastructure such as roads, local/family owned businesses replaced with large corporations intended for high income families.

Fresh produce lines the aisles of WinCo, Walmart, and Aldi, grocery stores with affordable pricing. Yet, many low-income neighborhoods witness the construction of Whole Foods, a luxury grocery store known for its overpriced goods. Why are low-income areas seeing the construction of unnecessarily costly stores and services? Short answer: gentrification.  

The USDA defines “food deserts” as places vapid of fresh produce, usually in impoverished areas due to a lack of grocery stores and farmers’ markets. Thus, many reason that implementing Whole Foods and other stores benefit the community by providing more access to healthy food. This reasoning is how many developers advertise the construction of grocery stores: a noble cause to address growing health concerns. However, if the goal is to better the health of low-socioeconomic people, why not construct a more affordable store? In reality, luxurious grocery stores attract affluent residents, signaling that the neighborhood is ready to be catered to the middle class. Food promotes gentrification by creating incentives for wealthier newcomers and pushing out ethnic vendors and restaurants.