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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The lack of grocery stores in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh's inner cities is so dire the Pennsylvania legislature is examining the possibility of placing state-run supermarkets, modeled after state liquor stores, in targeted neighborhoods, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The question was raised in a six-month legislative study, released yesterday, that addresses the problem of inner-city neighborhoods with no supermarkets.
"There is a lot more that needs to be done with this issue, but I am certain we will work together to bring supermarkets into communities to ensure the health and well-being of residents," said state Rep. Frank Oliver, D-Philadelphia, who is working on the problem with Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, the newspaper reported.
Apparently convenience stores are not filling the grocery gap. The paper reported that many urban neighborhoods now have only "mom and pop'' grocery stores or convenience stores that don't carry fresh produce and meats. So, short of having actual state-run retail stores, perhaps the state could provide such products on a wholesale basis, Wheatley said.
State-run grocery stores should be explored, even though there could be legal challenges from grocery chains that wouldn't appreciate government competition, Wheatley said, according to the news report.
Many small inner-city grocery stores "don't carry a lot of healthy food items, and for the items they do have, prices are so much greater" than in large, suburban supermarkets, he said.
Wheatley is concerned about the apparent unwillingness of supermarket chains to serve such Pittsburgh neighborhoods as the Hill District, Downtown, Oakland, Hazelwood and some areas of the North Side. Many of those areas are in his state House district.
The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority tried unsuccessfully to interest some of the large grocery chains in locating along Centre Avenue in the Hill, near the new Crawford Square housing development, according to the news report.
Chains have been reluctant to give reasons for skipping certain areas, but fear of crime or the inability to assemble a tract of land big enough for mega-groceries have been cited, the paper reported.
"We want to revitalize these neighborhoods, and part of that revitalization includes having places to shop," Oliver said.
Wheatley said a lack of adequate grocery stores is also a problem for rural areas of the state, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.