Can't Liquor Stores and Health Food Just Get Along in East L.A.?

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Liquor Store Photo: Clinton Steeds via Flickr

Amid so much political speak about "food deserts" and the vilification of corner stores, Javier Cabral explores the issue today simply by standing in his East L.A. neighborhood tiendita, Pueblo Liquor, to observe customers coming and going for smokes, ice cream, Zig Zags, Sunny Delight, and Carmex, while mostly ignoring the bananas on the lower shelf. His neighborhood deemed a "food desert" and its liquor stores being made-over into shops centered on fresh produce, Cabral gives a first-hand account of the schism between scholastic research and public outcry and what he sees for himself.

"Everyone I know in East L.A. goes shopping once every week or two at a real supermarket. Healthy food is available to us," he writes, noting that no one at Pueblo Liquor is "looking for wheat germ or radicchio." Standing up for the liquor stores, he applauds their convenience and lower prices for the "small and simple" things needed in a hurry, like a forgotten can of jalapenos or a gallon of milk.

"A lot of reporters writing about East L.A. seem to consider the residents there to be both more ignorant than they really are and more knowledgeable than they really are," The Glutster offers, recalling that he's inhaled his fair share of Flamin' Hot Cheetoes over the years before embracing a passion for whole foods and great cooking. "You hear people talk as if the only thing stopping residents of East L.A. from eating tofu and steamed kale for dinner is an overabundance of Yoo-Hoo chocolate drinks," Cabral writes, certain "that is not the case."

The writer concludes, "Instead of just bringing healthier, more expensive food to the corner store, policymakers would be better off ensuring that nutrition gets more attention in schools and that health food is subsidized so that it’s not an economic burden for people to make the change."

In Defense Of the Liquor Store [Zocalo Public Square]