Food inequality haunts SLC’s west side. Here’s how residents are working to change that.


On the nook of North Temple and Redwood Highway, Lisia Satini counts not less than 9 fast-food eating places.

“We’re busy, working class, and typically we don’t have time to be cooking,” she stated. “And once we’re on the lookout for meals, and all now we have are fast-food choices, it’s irritating.”

Though Satini can also level to a few grocery shops in her Fairpark and Rose Park space, making wholesome meals choices can nonetheless be a wrestle.

The issue isn’t nearly not having sufficient close by grocers. Meals inequity as an alternative is a multidimensional subject in west Salt Lake Metropolis.

It’s evident each time Satini travels east to search out extra reasonably priced wholesome meals choices. It additionally haunts her when she will be able to’t get culturally applicable meals in her personal neighborhood, or when the shops don’t supply contemporary and wholesome decisions.

She now could be a part of Meals Fairness Advisors, a Salt Lake Metropolis program devoted to assuaging these variations.

The group organizes conferences with metropolis residents from numerous backgrounds to collect enter about boundaries to meals entry. The objective is to supply a brand new meals evaluation to replace the final one the town printed in 2013. These advisers additionally assist draft suggestions for the town to contemplate.

Now this system is proposing a Meals Fairness Decision that “will acknowledge the necessity for modifications in land use planning, zoning, environmental and housing coverage, water administration, transportation, parks and open area, financial improvement,” reads a 2021 report. It’s anticipated to be mentioned by the Metropolis Council within the coming months.

Of their preliminary draft, the advisers known as for a decision to proceed to make meals fairness a precedence, updating the town’s current meals evaluation and pursuing extra management alternatives for numerous residents.

The starvation hole

In areas comparable to Glendale and a few ZIP codes that Utah’s capital shares with neighboring South Salt Lake, 29% to 33% of adults fear about having sufficient cash to purchase meals, based on 2015-2020 knowledge from the Utah Division of Well being.

Throughout the valley, in an east-bench space, that share is round 14%, lower than half of what’s discovered amongst lower-income communities and communities of shade.

Information from the U.S. Division of Agriculture additionally reveals gaps in grocery store entry. West-siders within the Ballpark, Fairpark, Glendale, Jordan Meadows, Poplar Grove and Rose Park neighborhoods have a more durable time attending to grocery shops.

Meals Fairness Advisors gathered 13 residents to assist put this knowledge into context by explaining what challenges they see of their neighborhoods, points they could have with already current meals packages, and what they take into account to be culturally applicable meals. Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New Haven, Connecticut, run comparable initiatives.

[Read more: There are 410,000 Utahns who are hungry. Here’s how you can help.]

The pilot program has wrapped up, and a brand new cohort is predicted to begin this 12 months. The town is accepting functions to take part and hopes to host the brand new group’s first assembly in April.

“The west aspect of Salt Lake,” stated Brian Emerson, Salt Lake Metropolis’s meals and fairness program supervisor, “for sure over time, there’s been underrepresentation for positive, and underinvestment and outright institutional racism.”

Whereas the areas of grocery shops have a direct influence on meals accessibility, Emerson stated, the meals fairness drawback has many extra layers.

Different obstacles embody low incomes, lack of entry to assist just like the Supplemental Diet Help Program (SNAP), the rising price of housing and different fundamentals, and transportation shortcomings.

“Earnings is the figuring out issue,” he stated. “However the meals that is likely to be out there in a neighborhood, it’s simply not proper for the neighborhood.”

That was Satini’s case.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lisia Satini, one of many advisers of Salt Lake Metropolis program to battle meals inequity, stands close to North Temple and Redwood Highway, on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022.

As a Pacific Islander, she had parts lacking in her eating regimen. She then was capable of finding taro leaves and inexperienced bananas in her space grocery store — a small victory, after mentioning the shortage of numerous meals to a grocer in one of many city-organized conferences.

“Accessibility is large,” she stated, “particularly for underserved communities.”

Doable options

The advisers mentioned the opportunity of making a meals or money voucher for these with restricted entry to SNAP and different help, giving residents extra monetary sources.

The town hasn’t made any commitments round this concept, Emerson stated, however there have been inside talks and research about how comparable packages have labored in different cities.

The voucher could possibly be much like the Salt Laker Card, a COVID-19 aid program that supplied $500 money playing cards to individuals who didn’t obtain stimulus checks due to their immigration standing or different limitations. It was a partnership between the town and neighborhood organizations.

“This isn’t one thing we’re fairly but actively wanting into,” Emerson stated. “However we had been intrigued by that concept.”

One other potential resolution would enable residents to take issues into their very own fingers, actually, by rising their very own meals. The plan requires teaming up with Wasatch Group Gardens to make neighborhood gardens out there on city-owned land.

The west aspect already has such a backyard close to the 9-Line, Emerson stated. One other is deliberate in Rose Park, and the town might revive Glendale’s Cannon Greens Group Backyard, which shut down as a result of soil contamination, at any time when it’s protected to take action.

This proposed initiative excites Eugene Simpson, one other program adviser. Driving across the metropolis, he can image new neighborhood gardens or greenhouses rising.

“There are new residences within the metropolis,” he stated. “In the event you put in greenhouses and also you let the individuals who reside within the residences know how you can keep the vegetation, they may even have contemporary greens.”

Simpson, who lives in South Salt Lake however owns a barbershop in Rose Park, moved to Utah from Belize in 1996 and jumped on the likelihood to take part in this system as quickly as he heard about it. He already plans to be a part of the second cohort.

“Meals was onerous to come back by. I used to be getting one slice of bread a day with a bit of little bit of peanut butter,” Simpson stated about his start line as an immigrant. “I don’t need anyone to undergo what I went by means of.”

Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes in regards to the standing of communities on the west aspect of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps hold her writing tales like this one; please take into account making a tax-deductible present of any quantity in the present day by clicking right here.