New Food Desert Emerges Overnight in Impoverished Bloomington Neighborhood

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: The Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Staff report

Bloomington, Indiana – October 17, 2023

Residents of one of Bloomington’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods are facing a sudden and stark reality as what is being referred to as a “food desert” emerges overnight. The cause? The unexpected closure of the Our Way C-Store on 11th Street Tuesday.

A food desert, in this context, refers to an area where residents have limited access to affordable and nutritious food, typically due to the absence of grocery stores or other food providers. In this instance, the Our Way C-Store was the sole source of food for residents in the affected neighborhood.

A worker from the now-closed store, who chose to remain anonymous, shed light on the reasons behind the abrupt shutdown. “We can’t make any money! So, we had to close,” the worker explained.

One contributing factor, according to the employee, was a recent allegation that the store was involved in food stamp trafficking. Although they assert the allegation was false, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has barred the store from accepting food stamps as a form of payment.

The worker also cited the challenging nature of the neighborhood, describing it as “rough.” Additionally, they pointed fingers at the landlord, alleging that the landlord had been uncooperative and had offered an unsatisfactory deal of $15,000 for $45,000 worth of merchandise and $8,000 for the gas pumps.

Remarkably, despite the abrupt closure, the lease for the market had not expired. The worker emphasized that the closure was due to the unforgiving business environment and economic challenges.

What makes this situation particularly dire is that the Our Way C-Store had been the primary food source for residents in the area. It boasted a more extensive selection of grocery items than most convenience stores in the city, making it a vital resource for the community. Most residents in the neighborhood relied on walking to the store for their daily necessities.

The closure has left residents in a difficult predicament, as the nearest larger grocery store requires a minimum of two bus changes to reach, making it an impractical option for many in the community. Understandably, the closure of the store has left the local population upset, though the store’s worker said it had had little choice given its economic struggles.

The Our Way C-Store served hundreds of residents, particularly those living in the Crestmont housing project and the nearby Union housing complex. This area hosts one of the highest concentrations of low-income housing in the City of Bloomington, making the store’s closure even more impactful on the vulnerable population it served.

With the store now closed, the owners are hoping to liquidate the remaining items within the market, including the relatively new gas pumps. They can be contacted at 812-360-8259 for inquiries or potential sales.

This sudden development underscores the challenges faced by residents in impoverished neighborhoods, who are left grappling with limited access to essential food resources, further highlighting the critical need for sustainable solutions to address food deserts in underserved communities.

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: The Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: The Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: The Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: Merchandise still inside the Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. The owners of the store are hoping to sell the items. (Courtesy Photo)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: Merchandise still inside the Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. The owners of the store are hoping to sell the items. (Courtesy Photo)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: Merchandise still inside the Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. The owners of the store are hoping to sell the items. (Courtesy Photo)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: Merchandise still inside the Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. The owners of the store are hoping to sell the items. (Courtesy Photo)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: Merchandise still inside the Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. The owners of the store are hoping to sell the items. (Courtesy Photo)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: Merchandise still inside the Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. The owners of the store are hoping to sell the items. (Courtesy Photo)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: Merchandise still inside the Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. The owners of the store are hoping to sell the items. (Courtesy Photo)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: Merchandise still inside the Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. The owners of the store are hoping to sell the items. (Courtesy Photo)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: Merchandise still inside the Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. The owners of the store are hoping to sell the items. (Courtesy Photo)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – OCTOBER 17: Merchandise still inside the Our Way C-Store, which closed permanently, on October 17, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. The closure leaves one of the city’s poorest neighborhood’s a food desert. The owners of the store are hoping to sell the items. (Courtesy Photo)

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