City Council is tackling food deserts by increasing access to fresh fruit, vegetables

San Antonio residents living on the South Side struggle to get fruits and vegetables daily

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio’s District 3 is the largest area in the city and is also home to the most food deserts, where large portions of the population lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

This access and equity issue is linked to poor diets, obesity and diabetes, according Rebecca Viagran, District 3 councilwoman.

“We know that in District 3, we have some of the highest diabetes rates in the entire city of San Antonio,” Viagran said. “We do not have any access to readily available fresh fruits and vegetables, unfortunately, because of the lack of grocery stores out there. And we’re continuing to grow out there with single-family housing as well as multi-family housing, and we still do not have grocery stores out there.”

A 2017-2018 report from Metro Health shows people living in the south area of town are hospitalized for diabetes at a much higher rate than those in the north.

Viagran said a grocery store chain purchased property at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Interstate Highway 410 two years ago, but construction never started. She says the community needs a big-box grocery store.

Jessica Tototzintle moved to the South Side two years ago. She said that not much has chained, leaving residents with few options.

“There’s really nothing out here,” Tototzintle said. “It’s usually a hassle, so we get it delivered to us. That way, we don’t drive. So far, we’re not because I have a newborn, and it’s hard to get to there and come back from a quick standpoint.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tototzintle lives in a food desert, a low-income area where the nearest grocery store is more than a mile away.

Totozintle’s neighbor, Carmen Canut, has been living in the area for more than 30 years and faces a similar issue.

“We go to the small little stores, but everything is expensive,” Cantu said. “We can’t get meat, only canned food.”

In April 2019, the VIVA SA Healthy Corner Store Initiative was launched, which acted as a program to bring affordable fruits and vegetables to area corner stores, Viagran said.

“We got refrigeration storages out there. We got fresh fruits and vegetables -- avocado, tomato, cucumbers,” Viagran said. “We got that fresh fruit and partnered with that Corner Store to have that food out there at a reduced cost.”

District 3 has eight convenience stores that carry fresh produce. Between April and Oct. 2019, a total of 37,000 pounds of produce was sold to the community through the project.

The program has been so successful that City Council recently approved $120,000 to expand the program to other districts, including 1, 2, 4, and 7.

Read Metro Health’s fact sheet on Diabetes below:

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