by Sam Hieb
Triad City Beat reports on the less-than-successful rollout of Winston-Salem’s Liberty Street outdoor market:
By measures of food access and poverty level, the area is a classic food desert, as defined by the US Department of agriculture. From the intersection of 14th and Liberty streets, it’s a mile to the Food Lion and Save-A-Lot groceries at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and New Walkertown Road. Another Food Lion, at North Side Shopping Center, is 2.3 miles away.
To meet the US Department of Agriculture’s definition of a food desert, at least 20 percent of a census tract’s residents must be living in poverty; 67 percent of the residents in the area live below poverty. Median family income is $12,813, compared to $40,148 for the city as a whole. It would be hard to imagine a place in more dire need of healthy, affordable food.
The official opening of the Liberty Street Market last October, an event heralded with high-flown rhetoric from local elected officials, should have been a moment of renewal for an area that has been struggling to revive for decades. The diagonally placed pavilions equipped with overhead heaters — one enclosed and the other open — would be the envy of any neighborhood.
For all its promise, six months in there is no fresh produce for sale at the market, hours of operation are sporadic, only a handful of vendors have been showing up, and foot traffic is scarce.
You guessed it— allegations of political motivation behind the rewarding of the contract to operate Liberty Street Market are flying around, with City Council member Vivian Burke — who represents the Northeast Ward — in the middle of it all.