Food and water are essential human needs, but how far will you walk to meet those needs? I don’t mean if you’re starving or setting up some sort of physical challenge for you to take. But realistically, how far will you walk on a daily or weekly basis to pick up the staples on your grocery list?
Specifically, I’m looking at this from a small to mid size town perspective and from a changing behavior standpoint. City folk, I know you are an exception to the rule, and Europeans are ruled out because you’re way the fuck ahead of us.
In my own day-to-day life I get caught in the auto rut. My desk chair legs and sofa butt don’t always want to meander to get food stuffs. I like to study walkability, fight the good fight of bike-friendliness, but in the land of car brain – I am equally subject to being a hypocrite myself.
The town I reside in has a handful of grocery stores. In a place where there were once local markets, neighborhood stores galore and a good variety of finds has now been consolidated into what’s left. Certain areas qualify as a food desert, especially if you are one of the unlucky not to have a car.
For myself, it’s not that I can’t physically get there, I just haven’t altered my weekly routine to accommodate this specific behavior. The distance itself is awfully close for me not to want to walk it. It’s definitely within a quick jaunt by bike. I’ll be damned if it isn’t just as easy to jump in the car, turn off my brain and go get my grub on.
A walkable catchment, or “ped shed,” maps the area one is willing to walk to get to their destination is a good tool for looking at the reality of the situation. A 1/4 mile radius equals 5 minutes and a 1/2 mile radius equals 10 minutes. Generally, once you get out of that range you’re more prone to taking something more convenient than your own two hooves.
So on Sunday, I laced up, then leashed up my assistant, and we took to the streets. I kept a running clock of where each 5 minutes took me. The first ten were pretty uneventful walking down sidewalks where sometimes the street once the sidewalks came to an abrupt end. Part of what sucks when walking in this town these days is that the walk itself is uninteresting or depressing.
First landmark on the list is this:
My loyal companion didn’t mind this mindless destruction, he could already smell the open space ahead.
In an ironic preservation move, James Field, once used by the high school in the backdrop was saved, but not the school itself. I guess it’s easier to save a field than to exert creativity for a building.
Always the good sport and eager for some more face time on this blog, Rudy enjoyed the field. In all actuality, it is a great space, but nothing around it serves it well. The remaining few minutes we moseyed down the way to Schnucks.
Now this 14 minute hike wasn’t killer by any means. It’s a pretty straight stretch with a jog to the left. Is it one that left me wanting to do it again? No… but, this is the closest full-service grocery store. There is a Family Dollar within a stones throw from our house, but I’m a pretentious asshole who doesn’t believe in shopping at those places (feels good once I admit it), nor do they have fruit, vegetables, a deli, or other things that aren’t pre-packaged love handle helpers.
I’ve ridden my bike to Schnucks on occasion, and I’d have to say that’s probably the way I’ll go next time. I’m more ambitious than most folks, and obviously mildly more insane than them for tracking this in a blog entry, but I can’t see this distance being acceptable for most people to walk for food.
We’ve come to accept that this is what we must have to do in order to hunt and gather. It’s been ingrained into our culture and into our behaviors. What will change it here? I’m not sure. The easy answer is smaller, closer stores, but we’ve already phased those out, and the food monoculture we’ve created makes it harder to re-establish that way of life.
Sorry I couldn’t wrap that one up in a bow. My question to you is, “how far will you walk for food?”