Pasadena’s ‘food desert’ island

Northwest part of the city has few healthful grocery options nearby for residents.

December 08, 2011|By Adolfo Flores,

Gripping plastic bags filled with milk, eggs and a two-liter bottle of orange soda, Itzel Hernandez made her way down Orange Grove Avenue one recent evening, keeping a brisk pace and wearing a gray hoodie to keep away the fall chill.

Hernandez, 18, said she expected her trip home from Latino Market to take 25 minutes. The convenience store is the closest market to Hernandez’s home.

“Supermarkets aren’t that far if you have a car, but I don’t, so I have to walk,” Hernandez said. “We do have a McDonald’s and a Jack in the Box nearby, though.”

Hernandez’s shopping trip is common among Northwest Pasadena residents, many of whom do not have cars and do not live close to supermarkets but are close to fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.

Northwest Pasadena has the traits of what nutrition experts call a “food desert,” defined by Congress passed in 2008 as a lower-income neighborhood or community “with limited access to affordable and nutritious food.”

Northwest Pasadena has just three supermarkets — a Vons at Fair Oaks Avenue at Orange Grove Boulevard, Food 4 Less at Lake Avenue and Washington Boulevard, and a Smart & Final on Fair Oaks and Maple Street — serving an area with 66,000 people. Overall, Pasadena has 19 supermarkets serving its 137,000 residents.

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