Alameda Is Not Becoming a ‘Food Desert’, You’re Just More Privileged Than You Think

During the most recent Alameda City Council Meeting, the very real possibility of Safeway closing on Bay Farm Island was brought up as something which would leave Bay Farm without any means or hope for getting fresh produce, and other nutritious foods. The term “food desert” was used, as well as a definition. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) characterizes food deserts as low-income neighborhoods that distinctly lack supermarkets and grocery stores.

Low-income census tracts with a substantial number or share of residents with low levels of access to retail outlets selling healthy and affordable foods are defined as food deserts.

Ver Ploeg, et al. “Mapping Food Deserts in the United States” USDA, Dec. 1 2019,

The reality of Low-Income Households, situated too far from Supermarkets, Grocery Stores, etc. is something that is finally being identified, and studied.

These areas are typically urban, rural, and semi-rural environments, where lack of vehicle access, public transportation, or just the sheer distance to a grocery store, prevents people from being able to purchase and transport healthy, fresh, nutritious food to their dwellings.

In urban areas, the closest and cheapest food sources are often only places like Fast-Food Chains, and Convenience Stores.

Unfortunately, these food sources are trash. And “ultraprocessed foods” like frozen pizza, hot dogs, store-bought cookies, ice cream, microwave dinners, Fast Food Burgers, Chicken Nuggets, and more, have been linked to certain forms of cancer, and help to provide an early death for those who can’t afford or access fresh meat and vegetables.

In rural areas, the impossible-to-travel distance from one’s house to any grocery store can mean that people just don’t eat, at all. Or, the amount of food which can be purchased is severely limited by the actual cost of going to and from the grocery store, and/or the amount of time it takes to make the trip is too long.

Having lived in both types of Food Deserts, it’s easy for me to look around at the City of Alameda and see the abundance of Food Sources, and their Connections via Public Transit, and find a place that is not recognizable as a food desert in any shape or form–at least, not in Bay Farm.

Upon researching this subject, I discovered that Bay Farm actually is considered a “Low Food Access Area”. Which is surprising, because Bay Farm also has the highest concentration of Home Owners Associations in the entire City of Alameda.

When the substantial addition of housing begins in Bay Farm, the Harbor Bay Landing will already have been re-developed with multi-unit housing. And it seems inconceivable that another grocery store won’t pop up, just like the Alameda Marketplace did–if a big store like Whole Foods, or Safeway, don’t beat them to it.

The take away is that Alameda Point really needs some Services.

That’s really what this map says to me.

For an area that used to have its own grocery store, the former Naval Air Station has become a point of embarrassment, specifically because of The City’s neglect of its residents. It’s something no one talks about. Just like the soil and groundwater contamination….

But we need to address these issues if we plan to be here for another 50 years. We can’t just focus on building parks, and leasing buildings to the highest bidders.