Nutrition and Food Access

For tens of thousands of Erie residents, access to healthy, affordable foods is a real challenge. Food deserts, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, are an area where at least 33 percent of residents live one mile or more from the nearest grocery store or supermarket. Erie County has 12 food deserts, 10 of which are located in the City of Erie. Accessing healthy, affordable food is a problem for more than 51,000 residents living in Erie County’s 12 food deserts.

Food deserts tend to be more concentrated in low-income, minority neighborhoods, where residents often lack access to a vehicle or reliable transportation. With fewer supermarkets and grocery stores and a higher concentration of small convenience stores located in food deserts, access to healthy, affordable foods is a growing problem. Many corner stores offer highly processed, packaged, high-fat, high-salt or high-sugar food and drinks. Without access to the foods that make up a healthy diet, individuals are more likely to be overweight, experience poor health, and have increased risks of many diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The Erie County Department of Health is working to make healthy, sustainable improvements in our community through education, promotion and community outreach. We work directly with corner store owners located in or near food deserts to address the issue of access to healthy foods. In order for people to make healthy choices for themselves and their families, healthy choices need to be available and accessible. Each participating store owner has agreed to stock a number of healthier food and beverage options (fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, etc.).

Additionally, store owners are provided with resources and education regarding SNAP and WIC benefits, nutrition and physical activity, proper handling and storage of fresh produce, free promotional materials and signage to alert the customer that healthier food options are available, and much more.

So how do you know if you live in a food desert? The USDA’s Food Access Research Atlas is a free tool that allows you to see the location of food deserts anywhere in the country – you can even search by address. This tool allows you to see areas of low income and low access (by distance and vehicle access), in addition to census information by clicking a given area.

Resources For Online SNAP Purchases

In Pennsylvania, residents who receive SNAP/EBT are now able to buy SNAP eligible foods and drinks online through Walmart and Amazon. These benefits can also be used to buy plants and seeds to grow food at home. This is a great way to get the food if you live in a food desert or are unable to make it to your nearest grocery store. For more information, please check out these resources:

Corner Store Options

If you live in a food desert and want access to healthy affordable foods, there are a number of corner stores that are stepping up to fulfill that need. The following stores have agreed to stock healthier food and beverage options (fruits & vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, etc.):

  • Serafin’s Food Market
    601 East 24th Street, Erie
    Phone: 814-456-7653
    Note: SNAP/EBT and WIC authorized location
  • One Stop Shop
    2401 Parade Street, Erie
    Phone: 814-455-8111
    Note: SNAP/EBT authorized location
  • Orsini’s Corner Market
    560 East Fifth Street, Erie
    Phone: 814-454-1299
    Note: SNAP/EBT authorized location
  • New Sara’s Market
    660 East 12th Street, Erie
    Phone: 814-452-4840
    Note: SNAP/EBT and WIC authorized location
  • State Street Market
    1022 State Street, Erie
    Phone: 814-459-2881
    Note: SNAP/EBT authorized location
  • Way 2 Go
    1002 Liberty Street, Erie
    Phone: 814-881-9190
    Note: SNAP/EBT authorized location