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The long-awaited Fry’s grocery store opened downtown this morning at 8am to a welcoming crowd of about 600 people gathered outside, the first 250 of whom received a $20 Fry’s gift card.

The store, located inside the still-under-construction Block 23, is the first grocery store in Downtown Phoenix and the only one located within a mile of the city’s center.

The lack of a grocery store was considered a crucial missing element that hampered the growth of the area. “A grocery store is part of the infrastructure of a (developed) urban neighborhood…This really is a signal that all of the pieces have come together.” said Dan Klocke, executive director of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, according to a quote obtained by the Arizona Republic.

Previous to today, the closest supermarket to downtown was a Safeway located at 7th Street and McDowell, an issue that made the area Phoenix a ‘food desert’ and limited the attractiveness of downtown living for prospective residents.

A food desert is a geographic area defined by the USDA as an area with no access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole food within a mile. Living in a food desert increases the likelihood of “diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes”, and the issue particularly affects low-income and minority communities, according to a study by Oakland, CA-based PolicyLink:

“Inequitable access to healthy food is a major contributor to health disparities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adult obesity rates are 51 percent higher for African Americans than whites, and 21 percent higher for Latinos. Black and Latino children are more likely to become obese than white children. The lack of healthy food retail also hinders community economic development in neighborhoods that need private investment, activity hubs, and jobs.”

“The Grocery Gap” – PolicyLink

Being the only grocery store downtown, the location is likely to become an important node in the urban fabric of downtown Phoenix. There are about 65,000 workers and 12,000 residents nearby, and the closest thing to a grocery store before today was a CVS that stands at 1st Avenue and Jefferson – and it doesn’t serve any produce.

The store will also serve nearby ASU students, convention attendees, tourists, and fans attending games at Talking Stick Arena and Chase Field. In addition, the main entrance to the new Fry’s sits less than 1000 feet from 4 different light rail stations, making it accessible to residents and workers within a much larger area than just downtown, particularly North along Central ave and out along Jefferson and Washington avenues, which are home to many low-income neighborhoods.

The completion of the much-fought-over South Central light rail extension in 2023 will also provide access to the Fry’s store for residents in the low-income neighborhoods to the South of downtown.

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