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Ever see the movie “Pleasantville,” where the kid and his sister get sucked into their TV set and become trapped in a late-1950s sitcom? As the two introduce 1990s sensibilities to inhabitants of the fictitious town, the people and their surroundings slowly transform from black-and-white to color. The film is a metaphor for enlightenment, innovation and discovery.
It’s also an interesting way to think of the current fresh food movement in drug store merchandising. This is more than just good business — call it enlightened discovery. Fresh is bringing new color to the store, and importantly into customers’ diets. And fresh has the potential to color perceptions of what the drug store represents to the community.
Take Chicago as an example. According to the June 2011 Chicago Food Desert Progress Report, over the past year, areas of the city that had been designated as food deserts contracted from about 64 to 55 square miles. In terms of the people affected by this, the food desert “population” decreased from 550,382 to 383,954, or about 30%, between 2010 and 2011, according to the research compiled annually by Mari Gallagher Research & Consulting Group since 2006. Over the last five years, Chicago’s food desert population has decreased 39%.
Behind this improvement have been massive commitments from such companies as Walgreens and Walmart, because in reality, fresh doesn’t exactly grow on trees. “Moving 166,428 people from a food desert to a food oasis ... is not a small accomplishment,” Gallagher Group reported. “To put that number in perspective, consider that is roughly equivalent in population size to the city of Rockford, which is the fourth-largest metropolitan area and third-largest city in Illinois.”
At the end of “Pleasantville,” even the geography of the town has been forever reshaped in the name of enlightened discovery; Main St., which once was locked in an infinite circuit stuck forever inside the fictitious town, now leads to other cities and towns.
Fresh is the freshest idea right now in drug store merchandising, bringing new color to the store and to shoppers’ diets. And it is reshaping the geography in the inner cities, transforming food deserts to oases of health and nutrition.