Community and faith leaders with the Alliance for Healthy and Responsible Grocery Stores recently issued report cards on Los Angeles area’s grocery chains. The organization held a conference to introduce the reports to the public and to describe the critical issues in the grocery industry impacting Los Angeles. The report cards graded the grocers on community standards, including store quality and access to healthy food, location in food desert communities, job quality, and general neighborhood impact.

Food deserts- areas with no easy access to healthy food- are one of the chief problems targeted by the Alliance. Speakers also discussed the economic role of grocery stores, which should be to provide key jobs with benefits that are accessible to people raising families in all neighborhoods.

“Access to healthy food is a basic human right, and that right is being violated in communities from South L.A. to East L.A. to the Northeast Valley,” said Elliot Petty of the Alliance for Healthy and Responsible Grocery Stores. “The grades these grocers receive are not inevitable; they are the result of decisions that create food deserts. We urged the grocery chains to serve our communities and this report highlights stores who are passing or failing the grade.”

“While none of the chains are failing overall, the industry is completely failing a large portion of Los Angeles. The chains scoring well on store quality, who provided healthy food and better job standards are not locating in the areas of L.A. that are most in need. Meanwhile, the few chains that are located in those areas are providing substandard service,” explained Petty.

The Alliance began the project early this year, building on the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission on L.A.’s Grocery Industry and Community Health, which convened in 2008.

Community members with the Alliance carried out standardized surveys of stores across Los Angeles, grading them on service, selection of healthy food, job standards, and accessibility.

The press conference, which was held outside of Vons on Sepulveda in West Los Angeles, announced the grades, which can be found at www.goodgrocerystores.org. The Alliance was joined by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who listened to the findings and pledged that addressing food access issues would be a priority at City Hall.

The link between food options and health has been demonstrated in numerous public health studies. Families with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables rely on high-calorie, low nutrient processed foods from fast food restaurants and convenience stores. As a result, many low-income and minority residents suffer from higher rates of diet-related health problems. Supermarkets also play a vital role in the Southern California economy, as major employers. So the absence of major grocery stores in food desert communities has meant serious health consequences for families, as well as a lack of good jobs in communities.