With the possibility of a year-round farmers market coming to the Park District, MSU professors have pondered the greater issue of food deserts in Greater Lansing.
A study by community sustainability professor Phil Howard and geography professor Kirk Goldsberry revealed supermarkets in the Lansing area are closing and relocating to the suburbs.
“It should be noted that the situation is not unique to East Lansing — ‘food deserts’ exist in virtually every urban environment in the country,” MSU professor emeritus of American Indian studies Phil Bellfy said in a public response.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a food desert is an area with little to no access to grocery stores that provide fresh, healthy and affordable food.
Howard and Goldsberry said the sparse selection makes it difficult for residents to practice a healthy diet.
However, this trend would be counteracted if the East Lansing City Council were to approve Lurvey White Ventures as the developer for the Park District project. Along with a 120-room hotel, new parking and residential buildings, Lurvey White’s plan includes a year-round farmers market.
“The architecture of the (Park District) would combine historic and modern features to create a warm, welcoming, tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly area,” Lurvey White Ventures partner Ridgway White said.
On any given Sunday afternoon in the fall, chemistry junior Hadley Orr can be found at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market. For Orr, who describes herself as a “country girl,” the smorgasbord of live music and fresh food is a little taste of home.
“The location and the year-round (farmers market) sounds awesome,” Orr said. “But just as important as getting the produce and feeding the farmers … is the whole culture of it.”
Orr said she is pulling for Lurvey White Ventures in the Park District project decision.
“I really love the farmers in the area, and I think it would really help them if it was year-round,” Orr said.
University of New Haven junior Alyssa Garvey, who is in East Lansing for the summer on a research experiment, said she can see how greater access to fresh produce would boost the downtown dynamic.
“Having a farmers market would allow you to have a lot more variety,” Garvey said.
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