SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Going to the grocery store is second nature for some Central New Yorkers. They simply hop in their car, drive to Wegmans, and come back.
But not everyone enjoys this luxury. Community leaders of Syracuse’s Near West Side have called the area a “food desert.” The neighborhood does not have a lot of grocery stores, making it difficult for residents to have access to healthy food choices.
When Nojaim Bros. Market closed in 2017, residents had even fewer options than before. Nojaim’s was open on Gifford St. for 98 years. While a Price Rite opened in the Near West Side in 2019, it was about a mile away from the people who lived within walking distance of Nojaim’s. Emmanuel Flowers, a resident of the Near West Side, says the relationship that Nojaim’s had with the Near West Side was special.
“It’s important for folks to be able to have access no matter what their physical situation is,” Flowers said. “And Nojaim’s gave them that and was there giving that for years.”
Now the Brady Faith Center, a nonprofit organization, plans on opening a farmer’s market in 2021 in that very building.
The market will offer meat, fresh produce, and baked goods. It will also have a section dedicated to low-cost, bargain items. It will not sell alcohol or cigarettes.
Kevin Frank, Director of the Brady Faith Center, says 30% of Near West Side residents do not have access to their own transportation. He says this puts people in a difficult situation when it comes time to go food shopping.
“We’re going to do whatever’s easiest,” Frank said. “If it’s hard to get on a bus line, take another bus, shop somewhere else in the suburbs, come back, carry these groceries in, we’re just not going to do it. We’re just going to go across the street to where the corner store is or the Family Dollar store is and we’re just going to shop there.”
Frank says these local convenience stores do not offer people the same array of healthy options that a bigger grocery store would.
“There’s really nothing healthy there to eat,” Frank said. “There is nothing green.”
The Brady Faith Center got the idea to start a market from its own urban garden. The Brady Urban Garden covers 5.8 acres and offers food and employment to people on the Near West Side.
Frank says the market will get some of its fresh produce from the urban garden.
“It’s awesome to bring healthy, fresh produce into a community that often doesn’t have it,” Franks said.
Flowers says he is hopeful that Brady’s Farmer’s Market will encourage more people to shop in their own community rather than planning out a grocery trip to the suburbs.
“What Brady’s new initiative would do is bring people back to the community for food,” Flowers said.
Ultimately, Franks says he wants this new farmer’s market to show residents that they matter and that their health matters.
“You take out grocery stores from the inner cities all across our nation and that’s just another statement that says some people matter more than others,” Frank said.
The market will cost about $1 million and does not have an official opening date.