One in four Baltimoreans lives in a food desert, meaning they don’t have easy access to fresh, affordable food. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has proposed a new strategy to help combat the problem.
According to the USDA, a food desert is a place where residents don’t have access to fresh, healthy foods. Food deserts lack farmer’s markets and good grocery stores; instead, they have fast food, poorly stocked corner stores, and few options.
It’s a familiar dilemma: you’ve had a terrible day, and the only thing that can soothe your pain is a handful (or five) of those amazing little peanut butter cups they sell at Trader Joe’s. But you polished off your last one yesterday. So: Do you drive to Towson to buy more, or suffer without?
Courtesy Bmore Media--MOM’s Organic Market says it will open a store at The Rotunda, ending months of speculation surrounding which grocer will anchor the $100 million redevelopment of the retail, office and residential project in Hampden.
The Rockville-based company will open a 15,000-square-foot shop, its eighth in Maryland and third in Greater Baltimore. It has stores in Timonium and Columbia. The Rotunda store will be MOM’s first in Baltimore City.
“I really like where [the Rotunda] is located,” MOM’s founder Scott Nash says. “It’s close to I-83. The parking is good. We’re pretty excited about it.”
MOM’s will replace Giant grocery store, which moved less than two blocks away last year to the Greenspring Tower Shopping Center. It’s unclear, however, when MOM’s will open. The first new retail shops at the Rotunda will open in 18 to 20 months, but Chris Bell, senior vice president of developer Hekemian & Co. Inc., says he is not sure whether MOM’s or what other retailers will be among them.
As planning for what to do with the vacant lot in the heart of Charles Village (that grassy expanse between 32nd and 33rd Streets, along St. Paul Street) began to develop, there was some talk of bringing in a grocery store to anchor the space. But that won’t be happening, according to Armada Hoffler, the developer of the site, because Charles Village residents are afraid that a larger grocery store would run beloved local market Eddie’s out of business.
When I heard Harris Teeter might be coming to my neck of the woods, I whined in protest: No, say it isn’t so.
I have nothing against Harris Teeter. In fact, I’ve enjoyed the few visits I’ve made to the specialty grocery store in other locations. The prepared foods selection is appealing, the aisles are wide and brightly lit, the employees friendly. But in no way do I want it coming anywhere near my house, as is rumored to be the case. It just might send me over the edge.
While I feel for those folks who live in “food deserts,” where few if any grocery stores exist and residents are reduced to buying junk food at corner stores, I suffer from the opposite problem.
There are so many grocery stores within a three-mile radius of my house, each with its own niche in the food industry, that I could spend hours each week just driving around to each one, picking up a little of this and a little of that and still not coming home with everything I need. I’m trying to rein in the habit by sticking to one or two stores to stock up on groceries for my family, whose appetites are growing alongside the food store options in Towson.
Downtown Columbia is going to host a new 45,000-square-foot Whole Foods sometime in 2014. The grocery store will occupy the former Rouse Co. headquarters in a Frank Gehry-designed building (one of the acclaimed architect’s tamer efforts).
Yesterday I told a friend who grew up in Silver Spring that I was considering stopping by the new MOM’s (My Organic Market) in Timonium, at the intersection of York and Ridgely Roads (near the Old Navy). “There’s a MOM’s in Baltimore?!” she yelped. Well, there is now — and any grocery store that gets people that excited is definitely worth a visit.
It’s easy to see why MOM’s might inspire loyalty in folks. The store’s dominant eco/green bent is no passing fad; the small mid-Atlantic chain has been an early adopter of energy-saving bulbs, wind-power energy offsets, and other energy-saving initiatives. All produce is organic, and they don’t sell bottled water at all — this fact is mentioned on one of the helpful little signs that dot the store, explaining some of its virtuous choices. It’s enough to make you feel like a better person just from a half-hour of grocery shopping.
So how does MOM’s measure up against everyone’s favorite virtuous food clearinghouse, Whole Foods? At 11,000 square feet, the Timonium MOM’s is less than half the size of Baltimore’s Whole Foods stores (both the Harbor East and the Mt. Washington branches are around 25,000 square feet), and has a cozier, less-swanky feel. (“It feels like a big co-op,” one of my shopping partners noted.) The produce section is certainly smaller; all of MOM’s produce is organic, which is either a plus or a minus, depending on how much you care about that sort of thing.
But by my thoroughly unscientific reckoning, MOM’s appears to have a more extensive bulk section than Whole Foods, with a significant bulk spice collection (beet powder! broccoli seed!) as well as bulk loose-leaf tea options. The store has a good selection of prepared foods from Zias, many of them vegan. There’s also gluten-free and raw-food sections, if you’re one of those “special diet” types. On the whole, prices were slightly cheaper than Whole Foods, though not remarkably so. They stocked my favorite tofu (made by Twin Oaks Cooperative Foods). Their bread is super fresh.
All in all, it’s a cozy place with a real commitment to the whole local/sustainable/green ethos. It’s got that new-grocery store smell (in a good way), and all sorts of weird supplements, and a huge tea selection, and employees were almost manicly helpful. Worth a visit for sure.