Chattanooga's food desert could be getting worse

A store that's become a staple in Downtown Chattanooga is considering closing its doors.

Buehler's Market first opened it's doors over a century ago.

Brenda Saddler works at the market, "it's been downtown since 1912," she says.

Beuhler's past is rich but now it's future is in question.

Saddler says that's because the market just doesn't have the business it used to.

The market is considering closing it's doors but for now "we're just lagging along the best we can," says Saddler.

Saddler has worked at Buehler's for 20 years.

If the market closes, she'll be out of a job but she's more concerned about her customers.

"it's going to hurt a lot of people, it really is," she said.

The health department is concerned about the prospect of the downtown market closing as well.

John Bilderback is the manager of the Step One Program, he says "anytime a grocery store closes it's a concern."

That's because a big portion of downtown Chattanooga is considered a food desert.

The USDA defines a food desert as an area where people live more than a mile from the nearest grocery store in urban areas and more than ten miles in more rural areas.

The Hamilton County Health Department says more than 32,000 people in Hamilton County live in areas considered food deserts.

If Buehler's were to close, people in downtown Chattanooga will lose easy access to fresh produce.

John Bilderback says that will affect disproportionately affect "low income individuals, individuals that have limited mobility, whether that be access to transportation or disabled, and definitely children."

Some neighborhoods are finding ways to get fresh fruits and vegetables to their community.

"Corner store markets have stepped up and said 'we're going to start selling fresh produce.' That to me is the most sustainable solution there is," says Bilderback.

One of those corner markets can be found on E. 3rd street in the Orchard Knob neighborhood.

That's where Willie Leak gets all of his fresh produce.

"Everything is fresh and it's the only place around here that really sells fresh fruits, vegetables, everything," he said.



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