Without Pick ‘n Save, south Madison could experience a food desert

Without Pick ‘n Save, south Madison could experience a food desert

South Madison community members met Wednesday night to discuss the potential implications of a food desert that could arise if plans to demolish South Park Street’s Pick ‘n Save go through.

SSM Health plans to purchase 1312 South Park Street to build a new clinic, which would result in the destruction of the area’s only full-service grocery store.

The city of Madison submitted a request for proposals in 2017 for a city-owned property just south of of the Pick ‘n Save site, requiring a grocery store be built. Welton Enterprises submitted the only proposal for the site, and disagreements over how much the city should contribute to the development has slowed progress on building a new grocery store.

Residents are worried that a gap in grocery store service could create a food desert.

“Everybody I’ve talked to is concerned and feels like we shouldn’t have to lose a grocery store,” said Lisie Kitchel of the South Metropolitan Council, a civic engagement organization serving the south side. “Let’s keep the existing grocery store up and running until we can get a new one.”

City leaders are doubtful that that a continuity gap in grocery service can be avoided. Instead, they are suggesting options to assist residents throughout the gap, like assisting with transportation to other grocery stores or delivery services.

“What we really want is that people are able to access food even in the absence of a food retailer,” said Madison Food Policy Director George Reistad. “On the city’s end we are trying to be proactive about the strategies and solutions that we are looking into and that we make a reality for people living in the neighborhood.”

To others, these proposals aren’t enough to offset the potential damage done by a food desert. District 13 Alder Allen Arntsen had hoped that the city would come to agreement with a developer in time to avoid a food desert, and isn’t sure that the city’s proposed measures would be effective.

“It’s a stopgap. But no, it’s not an acceptable option. It’s going to be a hardship for lots of people. This Pick n’ Save serves a significant community,” he said.

The Pick ‘n Save is slated for demolition by the end of the year.

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