Flint has grocery stores. It has been widely reported on CNN and elsewhere that they have none, but I have found quite a few by doing an internet search.
But since I am not familiar with Flint, I can’t comment on each neighborhood’s access or lack of access to grocery stores. And it’s hard to tell even if you know the place. For example…
Within 10 miles of my apartment, there are 2 Walmarts, 2 Martin’s, 1 Weiss, I Sav-a-Lot, I Giant Eagle, and 1 Aldi. And there is a Hometown Market within 2 miles of here.
The problem is, it’s hard to do grocery shopping while using the bus. You have to make many trips (which adds up, as buses are not free) to get most of your shopping done, as it is not practical to carry much more than a backpack and a couple of carrier bags at any one time.
If you are physically able to, that is.
You can, around here, call the van transport for a $6 round trip to the grocery store – if you can prove that you are disabled in some way. This isn’t a service for people who are “just poor”, even though it is run by a senior service center. Poor people over 55 are not eligible unless they can prove disability. And it’s a fight, let me tell you – I went through a lot of grief and finally my doctor had to intervene, in order to get services.
You can maybe get a neighbor to drive you. Nancy Downstairs often helps me that way. But many people don’t know anyone with a car.
My point is, you cannot tell just by looking at a map how the people of that city live. You could be in a “food desert” just by virtue of the fact that there is no store you can walk to, to get groceries, except the local gas station (in my case, that’s what it is – Exxon station).
Technically, my area of Hollidaysburg is a “food desert”. And so it may be with many neighborhoods in Flint. You can’t tell just by looking at a map whether or not people have access to decent grocery stores.
Additionally, sometimes – oftentimes – you have to make the decision to either buy food or pay a bill. And now you have to go down the street to the local convenience store and buy a gallon of water, if they even sell that, because the city you live in has water that’s undrinkable.
Wait, wait, you might be thinking – buy food? What about food stamps?
Sometimes, when living on $5/day or less in terms of groceries, you run out of food stamps long before your next disbursement. If you haven’t planned for something unforeseen like crappy, dangerous water, you most likely don’t have “leftover food stamps” with which to buy any.
Or the local place down the street doesn’t even accept food stamps. The Exxon convenience store near me doesn’t.
If you don’t pay your water bill, you can buy water. Simple decision. Except now you have to worry about them shutting off the water after they fix things.
And what about those wonderful free filters?
If you do not have transportation, how are you going to get to the site to get one?
And you have to bring your water bill. Your water bill that you haven’t paid. What if they say something to you about that? What if they won’t give you a filter because you owe so much money? What if you can’t find it, having torn it up and tossed it out of frustration?
Whether reasonable to you or not, these are the kinds of things that go through peoples’ minds when confronted with problems like this. So, just think about that. Try to put yourself in their place.
When you’re poor, nothing is simple, easy, or uncomplicated. Please remember that.
Weirdness of the week comes from…a personal experience.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I was stranded at the grocery store bus stop. And that it was 6 below. I had a scarf on that went around the top of my head and around my neck.
Random woman approaches me, asking, “Does your husband make you wear that?”
I look around, thinking she isn’t talking to me, because I don’t know her and I have no idea what she means.
“Your head scarf, does your husband make you wear it?” she asked, sounding somewhat exasperated.
“I cannot imagine why you would ask a stranger that,” I responded. And I turned my back on her.
She huffed a bit and then left. Amazing. You know, I am tempted to buy a cap and a hijab to wear on cold days, or on bad hair days, just because they seem practical – and just to annoy the heck out of people who are idiots.
Recommendation for this week is for anyone who has wondered why Coca-Cola in bottles from Mexico has appeared in the grocery stores, as if it tastes different from “regular” Coke.
It does. It tastes way better. I know this because I went out to an authentic Mexican restaurant (El Palmar) while in Memphis visiting my son and daughter-in-law, and I tried it.
Full disclosure time – I hate Coke. Always have. But I was curious about this and let me tell you, it doesn’t taste at all like the Coke we are used to here. It has no weird aftertaste and it’s got a light, clean taste to it. If you drink pop – and I do, sometimes – I recommend this.
And I recommend El Palmar, too, if you’re ever in Memphis. Great food!
Be good. Be kind. Be well.