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Food Justice Team earns grant for supermarket

Date: 11/19/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — A recently announced state grant will assist a local group in its efforts to bring a full service supermarket to State Street.

On Nov. 9, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray announced several MassWorks Infrastructure Program grants, including one for $3.865 million that will allow the demolition of a parking lot for Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) on the proposed site of the market and the construction of a replacement parking facility at the Springfield Technology Park.

Jessica Collins of the Mason Square Food Justice Team, a group that has been advocating for the market told Reminder Publications the grant will help the project over one hurdle in the development of the site.

The proposed market would be situated on State Street opposite the Technology Park and would serve the neighborhoods such as Old Hill, Upper Hill, Maple-High Six Corners, McKnight and downtown.

According to a 2010 report prepared by the Food Trust, "Despite being one of the most affluent states in the nation, Massachusetts has fewer supermarkets per capita than almost any other state. Some cities, including Boston, Springfield and Brockton, have as much as 30 percent fewer per capita supermarkets compared to national averages. In Lowell and Fitchburg, the number of supermarkets would need to double to adequately serve the population. The problem is statewide; when measured against the national rate of per capita supermarkets, Massachusetts has 141 too few.

"In addition to having too few supermarkets, existing supermarkets are unevenly distributed across the state, and lower-income communities are categorically underserved in respect to supermarket access. The situation in Massachusetts is not unique; a nationwide study of over 28,000 zip codes found that low-income zip codes have 25 percent fewer per capita supermarkets than middle-income zip codes."

Collins noted at this point, "We're still a long, long away [from having a market]," adding, "We don't have a grocery operator and we don't have the land under control."

She believes, however, that in about a year, if tax incentives are developed, grocery store developers may consider the project.

Murray said, "Our administration continues to partner with cities and towns as we invest in local infrastructure, create jobs, and support economic growth. By working with the communities through the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, we are paving the way for future opportunities that will advance economic development and help build a stronger future for the Commonwealth."