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Make food access part of smart economic development

For most of us, a trip to the grocery store is one of the easiest things imaginable: We hop in our car, drive 10 minutes or so, grab what we need, and get back home in no time flat.

We can easily work that trip into our daily schedule, and making unplanned trips to the store for a forgotten ingredient is no big deal.

However, as News staff writer Crystal Nelson reported last weekend, that’s not the case for the residents of 370 Northeast Michigan households.

Those residents have no access to a vehicle and live at least a half-mile from the nearest supermarket, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nelson reported.

For those residents, getting to the store means a long walk (probably not possible if they have to carry groceries back home), a bus ride, a cab ride, or trying to hitch a ride from a friend or family member. All of that means a quick trip to the store requires careful planning and organizing, and unplanned trips get even harder, if not impossible.

The Thunder Bay Transportation Authority’s Dial-A-Ride service is a community gem, but their services are limited, especially outside of Alpena, because low ridership makes extended service not cost-effective. We’d love to see more investment in that, and were happy to learn from Nelson that authority officials have sought grants to beef up their offerings.

We also encourage area economic development officials to keep food access in mind as they plan the places where businesses could develop and the types of businesses they try to recruit.

Easy access to healthy food is quality of life 101.

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