DC food deserts: 1965-1990
The large chain grocery stores, Safeway and Giant, began a long series of closures of small stores without replacing them with large format stores that led to food deserts in many areas of the city.

Independent stores that opened in their place employed fewer neighborhood residents at lower wages than the unionized Safeway and Giant, which dominated the market. Further, the economics of operating an independent meant higher prices for fewer goods.

Overall this meant lower incomes to purchase the few available goods at higher prices.


The District’s solution to food and retail deserts in these lower-income areas in recent years has been to gentrify the neighborhoods, using economic pressures to force out low-income black families and replacing them with higher income single people or couples who are mostly white.

The effort usually, though not always, begins with a mixed use development or two around a Metrorail station in lower income sections of the District—sometimes with tax abatements.

Small scale developers often buy up neighboring single-family townhouses and convert them into multi-unit dwellings. Others renovate the properties and re-sell at exorbitant prices. Other shops and developments soon follow.

The District government establishes bike lanes and Circulator bus routes, allocates space for zip-cars and others and renovates or creates park facilities.

The economic pressures of higher property taxes and offers of cash by developers either force or lure lower income residents to leave the area.
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