Fresh and Easy displacement

Bayview's new grocery store has little to offer working class families

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OPINION You could cut the hate with a knife. All eyes were on my fumbling fingers, unable to sign my WIC coupons fast enough with one hand while holding my 13-month-old son with the other. "Somebody's using welfare checks to pay for their food," A 20 something man in a polo shirt shouted into his phone next to me.

I spend so many days like this while trying to shop as a poor mama, its hard to even think about them. The life of a poor parent in the U.S. is always a scarcity model rollercoaster ride of hate, system abuse, subsistence crumbs and criminalization, best exemplified in the supermarket experience where the so-called paying customers suffer through the bother of waiting for poor parents to pay with our WIC coupons, working poor mamas to pay with payroll checks or indigenous elders to count out their multiple coupons.

I began to reflect on this when I heard about the new fresh and Easy Markets opening in the Bayview-Hunters Point, the Mission and the Portola district. It's a new supermarket chain from England that by policy doesn't accept WIC coupons.

WIC — the federal Women, Infants and Children's program, is not welfare, but rather a supplemental program that allows low-income parents to get milk, grains, cereal and other basic foodstuffs. It's a program used by many working poor as well as mamas on government crumbs so we can feed our children a balanced diet.

The Bayview, Mission, and Portola neighborhoods are peopled with a lot of multi-generational, multi-lingual mamas, and families in poverty like mine, who need access to affordable fruits and vegetables and non-hormone-filled meat like Fresh and Easy has, but are these stores really being built for us?

Like so much of San Francisco and the whole Bay Area, these communities are under attack from redevelopment and gentrification efforts. Removal and evictions of poor families and elders happen everyday in the city to make way for the corporate veneer of Lennar and John Stewart properties, condominiums, lofts and the rich young people who they are built for.

So who is Fresh and Easy for? They don't take coupons, personal checks or WIC — and like their Whole Paycheck counterparts, they don't hire union employees, or ultimately many employees at all, as they have the new self-pay check-out stands.

Fresh and Easy claims it doesn't except the manufacturers' coupons for the same reasons it doesn't accept paper personal checks, W.I.C. vouchers, or cash payroll checks: That elimination of manual paper processing, combined with its self-service checkout system, saves money.

Pressured by community members who protested outside the Bayview store on its opening day, Fresh and Easy CEO Tim Mason now claims that Fresh and Easy in the Bayview will eventually begin taking WIC.

As this poor mama tries to move out from under the lie of criminalized government crumbs and the non-existent, bootstraps centered, corporate underwritten American dream, I have come to realize our collective, self-determined liberation begins with growing our own food in our poor neighborhoods with people-led community gardens, taking back stolen indigenous land and resources with organized poor people led/indigenous people-led efforts and whenever we have the energy, after all the other things we have to do to survive in this capitalist society fighting the exclusion and removal efforts of us by the smooth talking corporations who don't see us as part of their grand profit-making plans.

Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, daughter of Dee and mama of Tiburcio is the co-founder of POOR Magazine/PoorNewsNetwork and author of Criminal of Poverty: Growing up Homeless in America

Comments

Unfortunately, the WIC is on the chopping block as part of the deficit reduction deal signed by the president last month. Dianne Feinstein and the rest of the Senate Appropriations Committee will be taking up the Ag Appropriations bill on Wednesday Sept. 7. The Senate Approps committee will also be making recommendations to the "supercommittee" on further reductions to WIC and other nutrition programs by October 14. "supercommittee". We already know how the House Approps committee feels about WIC and other nitrition programs - they voted to make drastic cuts to WIC, TEFAP, and CSFP in June. The time to stand up for these important programs - whether you're standing up to your local grocery store for accepting the vouchers or to the Feds for maintaining funding for this important program - is now!

Posted by Guest on Sep. 06, 2011 @ 11:15 pm

I am in a conundrum around this new store. It is one block away from my home. I live, with my wife and two kids, in a below market rate condo in the Bayview that I had to navigate excruciating layers of complex bureaucratic piles of paperwork for over a year to actually move into. I have lived in Bayview before and love the neighborhood. The problem is that there are hardly any stores where you can buy fresh vegetables. It was always a problem.
Now we have a store, and the selection I must say the selection is pretty nice.

The few workers that are there do appear to be from the neighborhood and the store was literally packed with neighborhood residents. I only went there once but was impressed.

There are absolutely no other stores in the neighborhood that are even close to the quality.

But they dont have a union and they dont take WIC? WTF????? Plus there are no cashiers. They are those automated scan things that I really hate.

Bayview needs grocery stores big time, and now one has finally opened, but its got some real problems. As I was leaving I saw a few UFCW workers with signs in bags who were eating food they had purchased from the store.

Me and my two kids talked to them and they shared my concerns. It is the only place to get fresh food out there. They in effect told me not to worry about it. I would not have crossed the picket line if I had seen them there when I went in.

I seriously wonder how effective the boycott will be, given that residents who dont drive will likely flock there. That said, I cant in good conscience really shop there if there is a picket line. I am conflicted.

Damn.

Posted by James Chionsini on Sep. 07, 2011 @ 10:55 am

I wonder how "honest" Tim Mason is. I'll believe it when Fresh and Easy starts taking W.I.C. Will we ever see that? And, with W.I.C. being cut back, or cut, the store may not have to keep this promise at all.

These "smooth-talking" corporations and the 400 families who own most of this country's wealth live a life style behind the walls of their gated communities in which they know nothing about 'the little people out there in the dark.' That's Us Po'

Robert Ruben, Barak Obama's financial adviser, once called the White House from his limo complaining about a Manhattan traffic jam, expecting --- perhaps the President --- to do something about it.

So, I think your idea of building an alternate America under their unsuspecting noses where they absolutely do not see us is the only way to go. Look around you in the right places, and you will see this Alternate Social Reality is coalescing right now in America and across the globe.

Posted by Guest carol harvey on Sep. 07, 2011 @ 11:46 am

I know the Bayview residents have good reasons to be mistrustful, but the bottom line is that no one is having an easy time raising up from their boot straps in this community ( amongst so many others). I know this from the countless business proprietors my husband has met while getting a job at this store.

He and many of his new co- workers have been starving to work, to be contributors in the community and have put in many back breaking hours to get the store launched. They venture out on their breaks to grab a meal at local spots that are fighting to stay open and can use new patronage.

He has met restaurant owners needing greens, seniors who appreciate the convenience of the location of the store, and people looking for a healthy alternative at a good value ( aka. Bargain aisle).

There is now promise of new businesses adjacent and new residents. This is progress and everyone has freedom of choice. Should you choose to go to a big box store or otherwise, that is your choice. Let us show support for a new business, folks that work so hard in their new jobs, and the pride they feel for the store. Most local business owners actually see this as a positive change. No one store will fit the bill foreveryones needs, but this is at least a healthy and reasonable alternative.

Posted by GuestSfctk on Sep. 11, 2011 @ 11:32 am

I know the Bayview residents have good reasons to be mistrustful, but the bottom line is that no one is having an easy time raising up from their boot straps in this community ( amongst so many others). I know this from the countless business proprietors my husband has met while getting a job at this store.

He and many of his new co- workers have been starving to work, to be contributors in the community and have put in many back breaking hours to get the store launched. They venture out on their breaks to grab a meal at local spots that are fighting to stay open and can use new patronage.

He has met restaurant owners needing greens, seniors who appreciate the convenience of the location of the store, and people looking for a healthy alternative at a good value ( aka. Bargain aisle).

There is now promise of new businesses adjacent and new residents. This is progress and everyone has freedom of choice. Should you choose to go to a big box store or otherwise, that is your choice. Let us show support for a new business, folks that work so hard in their new jobs, and the pride they feel for the store. Most local business owners actually see this as a positive change. No one store will fit the bill foreveryones needs, but this is at least a healthy and reasonable alternative.

Posted by GuestSfctk on Sep. 11, 2011 @ 11:34 am

I know the Bayview residents have good reasons to be mistrustful, but the bottom line is that no one is having an easy time raising up from their boot straps in this community ( amongst so many others). I know this from the countless business proprietors my husband has met while getting a job at this store.

He and many of his new co- workers have been starving to work, to be contributors in the community and have put in many back breaking hours to get the store launched. They venture out on their breaks to grab a meal at local spots that are fighting to stay open and can use new patronage.

He has met restaurant owners needing greens, seniors who appreciate the convenience of the location of the store, and people looking for a healthy alternative at a good value ( aka. Bargain aisle).

There is now promise of new businesses adjacent and new residents. This is progress and everyone has freedom of choice. Should you choose to go to a big box store or otherwise, that is your choice. Let us show support for a new business, folks that work so hard in their new jobs, and the pride they feel for the store. Most local business owners actually see this as a positive change. No one store will fit the bill foreveryones needs, but this is at least a healthy and reasonable alternative.

Posted by GuestSfctk on Sep. 11, 2011 @ 11:35 am

I wonder how "honest" Tim Mason is. I'll believe it when Fresh and Easy starts taking W.I.C. Will we ever see that? And, with W.I.C. being cut back, or cut, the store may not have to keep this promise at all.

These "smooth-talking" corporations and the 400 families who own most of this country's wealth live a life style behind the walls of their gated communities in which they know nothing about 'the little people out there in the dark.' That's Us Po'

Robert Ruben, Barak Obama's financial adviser, once called the White House from his limo complaining about a Manhattan traffic jam, expecting --- perhaps the President --- to do something about it.

So, I think your idea of building an alternate America under their unsuspecting noses where they absolutely do not see us is the only way to go. Look around you in the right places, and you will see this Alternate Social Reality is coalescing right now in America and across the globe.

Posted by Guest carol harvey on Sep. 07, 2011 @ 11:50 am

would go to sell fresh food - the ghetto.

And yet you complain that they don't take some obscure type of coupon that is about to be axed by the Federal government anyway?

Why not instead commend them of taking the risk of going into a high-crime area which, by the way, I suspect Tim would never take his kids anywhere need. He's too busy being goji berries, arugula and fennel at WholeFoods.

Posted by Bob on Sep. 07, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

WIC is not an "obscure program", or it may be to someone like you who doesn't need it. Perhaps this is why you do not know that a great many of the women with children who live in this area receive WIC.

WIC is a federal program, "Women with Infant Children", that subsidizes the cost of staples like milk, eggs, baby formula and cereal for women with children under 4 who are very poor and may not be able to afford enough of these things to keep their kids healthy otherwise.

You say people should be grateful that this chain is willing to go into this ooooh-scary area and serve the people, but this area is chock-full of immigrant Chinese, Black and Latino families who USE WIC. So who is the chain expecting to serve?

Hiring in the neighborhood is great, but as a person who myself benefits from a union and works across the street from this place, i think it is great that people are making the nonunionization of the place an issue. After all, the stores they have in England ARE unionized; why shouldn't US workers have the same protections? Why is there a problem with the place coming to Bayview and being unionized? There's no charity here, Bob-- they would not have moved into the area if they did not feel they could make money. And they can have a union that protects workers and make money, just like they do in jolly ol'[ England.

Posted by Guest Laure on Sep. 07, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

about the fact that they would be non-union and wouldn't accept WIC vouchers when they were negotiating to move to that location. I'm sure they did they homework and realised that they could only be profitable if they were allowed to operate in such a way.

And the City would presumably not have given them a license to operate unless they were satisfied with their terms of operation.

The simple fact is that they didn't need to open in that deprived part of the City at all. And while no other store operator would open there, Tesco's at least did, albeit on their own terms.

So it feels a little churlish to complain about how they operate when they probably would not have agreed to move in under any other terms. We either get Tesco in on that basis or not at all. Beggers can't be choosers and if someone gives you ten dollars, it's ballsy to complain that they didn't give you twenty.

Posted by Bob on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 10:08 am

Thats what I'm trying to figure out.

I just read a couple of articles on the opening and everyone has a problem with the place.

It's going to gentrify the neighborhood
It sells acyhol
It's not union
It has it seem residential units that there are not enough low cost ones

And yet it went through the SF busybody permit process where one complainer with a lawyer can hold things up for decades. This is the company's business model and seems to be the only operation willing to open down there.

Posted by meatlock on Sep. 10, 2011 @ 11:41 am

WIC is not an "obscure program", or it may be to someone like you who doesn't need it. Perhaps this is why you do not know that a great many of the women with children who live in this area receive WIC.

WIC is a federal program, "Women with Infant Children", that subsidizes the cost of staples like milk, eggs, baby formula and cereal for women with children under 4 who are very poor and may not be able to afford enough of these things to keep their kids healthy otherwise.

You say people should be grateful that this chain is willing to go into this ooooh-scary area and serve the people, but this area is chock-full of immigrant Chinese, Black and Latino families who USE WIC. So who is the chain expecting to serve?

Hiring in the neighborhood is great, but as a person who myself benefits from a union and works across the street from this place, i think it is great that people are making the nonunionization of the place an issue. After all, the stores they have in England ARE unionized; why shouldn't US workers have the same protections? Why is there a problem with the place coming to Bayview and being unionized? There's no charity here, Bob-- they would not have moved into the area if they did not feel they could make money. And they can have a union that protects workers and make money, just like they do in jolly ol'[ England.

Posted by Guest Laure on Sep. 07, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

It's true that F&E is a middle-class person's grocery store. Its prices are matched against Safeway, not FoodsCo, and its organic, pesticide-free offerings are matched against Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, not Super Save.

I've been fortunate as an adult and have never needed the support of a government food stamp program, but growing up in Canada, we relied on the monthly "baby bonus" check from the government, which my mom always used to buy groceries with. As such, I have benefited from and definitely appreciate the need for these kinds of programs in ensuring mothers and their children are fed. One of the purported reasons for putting the store where they did, besides making money for F&E, was to bring fresh food to a veritable food desert and a less-wealthy community. Realizing that WIC is something that this community relies on heavily and adjusting their policies to meet that community's needs is simply the right thing for F&E to do.

The union issue is a non-issue, as far as I'm concerned. Workers at Southern California F&E's have repeatedly said no to unionization because they're well paid, have decent work environments, and are given opportunities for advancement. Over the years, the labor unions have ensured that state and local laws have been written to protect workers to such a degree that the unions themselves are less necessary today than in the past. The fact that more than half of the employees at the store live hyper-locally is a huge boost not only for those people and their families, but for the community, and the only reason I can see that the unions are complaining is that they're not getting union dues from these folks.

I have to agree whole-heartedly with Ms Gray-Garcia's suggestion that we need to have more community vegetable gardens. Quesada Gardens Initiative is a perfect example of what needs to happen throughout the Bayview, Portola, and Mission neighborhoods in this regard. The only large hurdle with this is and always will be in finding people to bring the land to life, tilling, planting, and tending the soil to produce the vegetables needed for the community. I just don't know that there are that many garden project leaders out there to do it.

Posted by Chris on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

The independent Fresh & Easy Buzz blog has been writing about Tesco's Fresh & Easy not taking WIC, manufacturers' coupons and paper checks since 2008. Very interesting stuff about not only the social implications but also how doing so would help its sales and profits. Says Tesco lost $300 million on Fresh & Easy this year alone.

The blog says Fresh & Easy is making a big mistake by not taking WIC, ect.

See here: http://freshneasybuzz.blogspot.com/search/label/WIC%20Vouchers

Posted by Mitch on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 6:57 pm

Actually you should all be aware that the state WIC program doesn't allow stores to open with WIC. The store must be open for a set amount of time first and then must apply for a WIC permit. And by the way, California has set a current moratorium on all new WIC vendor applicants. So give Fresh&Easy a chance! They do accept food stamps/EBT at all stores and have only been open for a couple weeks.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

I work at a Fresh & Easy in the Central Valley that's been open 3 years. We could take WIC at anytime but the company just hasn't wanted to do so at any other stores besides the one in South Los Angeles. Our manager has told corporate it would be a good idea to accept it. We get many WIC users we have to send away. It's a company policy not to take it because of the self-service checkouts. Same reason we don't take the coupons and checks. It's not about getting permission from the state.

Posted by F&E Carol on Sep. 10, 2011 @ 10:29 am

What others think they should or should not accept might be interesting, but misses the point. Tesco are taking a big risk moving into that neighborhood, and I feel sure they've crunched the numbers in terms of what makes that entry viable or not.

Posted by Bob on Sep. 10, 2011 @ 11:34 am

Nothing good ever comes of doing anything in SF. There is always someone with a bone to pick. F&E should move out of the bayview, and the complainers would have nothing to complain about.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 11, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

IC — the federal Women, Infants and Children's program, is not welfare, but rather a supplemental program that allows low-income parents to get milk, grains, cereal and other basic foodstuffs.

It IS MOST CERTAINLY WELFARE if YOU are not paying and I AM

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

IC — the federal Women, Infants and Children's program, is not welfare, but rather a supplemental program that allows low-income parents to get milk, grains, cereal and other basic foodstuffs.

It IS MOST CERTAINLY WELFARE if YOU are not paying and I AM

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

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