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Mid-City CAN Blog

FreshWorks is good, but it could be great

In a story on July 21 in The San Diego Union-Tribune, I was quoted regarding a new program called California FreshWorks Fund. The program gets food justice right: to make fresh food more accessible to people of color in low-income areas.

However, the inclusion of Walmart at the White House news conference announcing the program raises concerns. Walmart has pledged to open “300 stores in food desert areas according to the article.”

While this would be a win for fresh food and accessibility -- it could have troubling economic consequences – especially in City Heights.

One of the most distinctive characteristics of City Heights is the number of small-scale entrepreneurs who own businesses here. Entrepreneurialism is the route to self-sufficiency and success for many of our families.

Imagine a Walmart Supercenter in City Heights.

How could it coexist with the diverse shops that line the street along University Avenue? Fam Mart and Safari Market – which both act as bazaar-style incubators for budding small-business owners – would be decimated. As a result, many of our families would lose their self-sufficiency.

Sure, part-time, minimum-wage employment might register a small bump, but at what cost?

Fortunately, Freshworks does address some of these issues. It uses rankings that assess whether the project will “retain quality, local jobs in the community” and “create or retain quality jobs for high-risk populations.”

However, we would like to see these criteria strengthened, so these are requirements for all FreshWorks projects.

FreshWorks could be even more powerful if it increased food access and leveraged more of the transformative power of economic opportunity.

-Diana Ross, collaborative director, Mid-City CAN

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