2008_05_supermarketmap.jpg
Map via The NY Times

Because of rising rents and lowering profit margins, supermarkets city-wide have been disappearing, according to a recent study. New York's boroughs have been especially hard hit, forcing low-income residents like Fort Greene's Della Dorsett to power her electric wheelchair several blocks uphill along Myrtle Avenue, "returning home with plastic bags dangling from handles and nestled between her feet." Something to think about next time the lines jam up at Whole Foods.

The Department of City Planning says that as many as three million New Yorkers reside in communities without enough supermarkets and limited access to fresh food, where some do their grocery shopping at discount stores or pharmacies. Jimmy Proscia, co-manager of a Key Food in Flushing, tells the Times that his competitors cut costs by hiring nonunion workers, while big-box stores buy in bulk and undercut the supermarkets.

According to the food workers union, only 550 decently sized (10,000 square feet) supermarkets are left in New York City. Labor unions and community boards are fighting the decline one supermarket at a time, and the city is moving to increase the number of carts that sell fruit and produce in low-income neighborhoods.