Another Kroger Closing On Springfield's South Side
A coalition of Springfield groups is trying to stitch together a food safety net for thousands of people. On March 4, the city’s South Side will become the region’s newest food desert, when the neighborhood’s Kroger supermarket closes. WYSO’s Jason Saul talked with Clark County reporter Tom Stafford about the emergency.
Jason Saul: Welcome back, Tom.
Tom Stafford: Glad to be here, Jason.
Jason Saul: So, Tom, set the scene for us.
Tom Stafford: The Kroger is about to close in a distressed area of town that the USDA considers low income with low access to foods. It's three blocks from the largest concentration of public housing in the area, has higher concentration of minorities, and it serves census tracts with high levels of diabetes and heart disease.
Jason Saul: Not that long ago, Kroger was planning for more investment in this part of Springfield, not less, right?
Tom Stafford: Right. Four years ago, there were plans for a $20 million store to be built just south of I-70. But then nationally, many groceries failed and Kroger changed course dramatically. It slashed its store construction budget by two thirds, then doubled investment in in-store data collection, where they expect $400 million in additional margin in two years. With five stores in Springfield at the time, they cut plans to build a new store and closed another store on North Limestone Street. Then came the January 30 first announcement about this most recent closing.
Jason Saul: People are describing this now as a gut punch to the city.
Tom Stafford: Yes, and especially to the city's South Side. Other groceries, including three Krogers, are four to five miles away from the area. It's a pressing problem for those without cars. People in the area are left with convenience stores that have higher prices and less healthful selections.
Jason Saul: So what's been the community's reaction?
Tom Stafford: There's been a real outcry. The city assembled a group of organizations, including the NAACP. Governor Mike DeWine and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown also got involved in negotiations with Kroger. As a result, the company decided to donate the building and the land, along with the freezers and coolers to the city. It also agreed to contribute $50,000. Some will support shuttle service for those without transportation. The rest of the money will go to the food bank to help it respond. These were significant wins.
Jason Saul: So, Tom, what are the chances that a new grocery store might come into South Springfield?
Tom Stafford: That's unlikely, given the state of the grocery industry right now. In the meantime, the city is going to use the old Kroger as a staging ground for foodbank services. The food bank is going to step up deliveries to the area, but the community really is facing an urgent time. And there are worries that there'll be cuts coming to programs that help the poor.
Jason Saul: Well, thanks a lot for the story, Tom.
Tom Stafford: You're welcome, Jason. Just wish I had better news.