Shame on Safeway


Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) has extensively studied access to healthy foods in communities of color and low-income communities in two areas: Santa Clara County, CA, and Vallejo, CA.


F.E.P. focused on Santa Clara County because, at the time, this is where we were based. I lived and worked in downtown San José, where there were liquor stores across the street from each other.

As a follow-up in Santa Clara County, the most impacted community in the county was found to be San José. We conducted focus groups there to find out from community members what the biggest barriers were and asked what they wanted and needed to improve the situation.

Because we only do our work in communities when invited, it was a request by David Hilliard (one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party) that took our work to Vallejo. We also worked with Vallejo People’s Garden, a community garden with volunteers and partner organizations throughout Vallejo. When we started our work in Vallejo, we had no idea that one of the contributing factors for the lack of healthy foods was going to be a grocery* store itself: Safeway. 

At a public meeting, Vallejo Board of Supervisor Erin Hannigan informed us that Safeway had put a deed on their former property. This deed prevented another grocery store from using it for the same purpose. In our recently released Vallejo report, we highlight on page 15 the impact this had on the community, which left the neighborhood and surrounding areas without access to a grocery store.

Keep in mind: I am not talking about the impact of a grocery store closing one location and re-opening a couple of blocks away. I am talking about leaving areas void of a grocery store when they move miles away.

Needless to say, I was absolutely disgusted and outraged to find out that Safeway was putting the health of communities at risk (including communities of color and some of the most vulnerable: the differently-abled and the elderly) and had the audacity to create such deeds. But I also knew Vallejo must not be the only community impacted by such greed.

We enlisted the help of Dr. Carol Glasser (who led the research on our report) and one of her students, Joseph Tope Sanni, and discovered that something similar had occurred in Washington, DC. I got in touch with a City Council Member’s office in D.C., who worked to pass a resolution in February of 2015 to stop this from continuing.

On May 27, 2015, I sent a letter to the CEO of Safeway (which is owned by Albertsons) urging Safeway to pass a policy to end the practice. On July 6, 2015, we received an unsatisfactory response from their VP of Public Affairs. We continued to engage with their VP until February of this year, when we realized that we were not going to get them to change their policy.

So we have decided to bring this disgrace to light.

We want to stop this damaging practice of placing deeds on former grocery store properties that don’t allow another grocery store from opening in the same location. All neighborhoods deserve the right to have access to fresh food!

We have had attorneys look at the legality of such deeds, and we know that even though it might be legal, it is immoral.

There are numerous barriers for people to be able to access healthy food—including the cost—because, unfortunately, many people are not paid living wages and many people are “time-poor and cash-poor”; they don’t have a lot of time OR money.  But barriers created by the very corporations that should be providing access to healthy foods should NOT be one of them.

Stopping this practice might just help communities across the U.S. gain access to healthy foods. At the bare minimum, stores should not stand in the way of access. Help us right this injustice!


Please join us in demanding that Safeway/Albertsons eliminate restrictive deeds on their former properties that prevent new grocery stores from replacing them.


*Please note that F.E.P. is not implying that grocery stores are the solution to the problems that face many communities, nor will they create a solution; however, this is clearly a massive barrier. F.E.P. prefers to advocate for people growing their own food, community-owned grocery stores (co-ops), and solutions coming from community input and with their support.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Hi BalletRusse,

    We will be having a protest at the Safeway on Georgia Street in Vallejo if you are interested in attending. Follow us on Facebook for updates, or sign up to our e-newsletter here: foodispower.org

  2. Our safeway is the only Santa Cruz grocer to maintain a policy against donating produce (the amounts they throw out are insane!) Furthermore dumpsters are locked and the food is rumored to be periodically bleached

  3. Is there a deed restriction on the closed Safeway on Jefferson Street in Napa? How can I find out?

  4. Hi, Dale,

    Thanks so much for reaching out! As far as we know, Safeway still owns the property, but we have not been able to get the property deed.

    If you're interested, we are looking for volunteers to help us with our research with finding other Safeway locations with these restrictive deeds.

    Please email us at info (at) foodispower.org for more information.

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shame on albertsons

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Please sign and share the petition to Safeway/Albertsons’ CEO Vivek Sankaran right now and tell him that all neighborhoods need access to fresh food!

Please sign our friends, at Birchwood Food Desert Fighters, petition to Albertsons, asking them to remove ALL grocery noncompete clauses affecting the Park Manor Shopping Center.

Call Safeway to complain:
1-877-Safeway
(1-877-723-3929). *

Call Albertsons to complain:
1-877-848-6483.*

Call Safeway to complain:
1-877-Safeway
(1-877-723-3929). *

Call Albertsons to complain:
1-877-848-6483.*

* Suggested language and details: Please make a polite phone call and keep in mind the person you are speaking to probably has no idea about this policy—most people don’t. You just need to stay on the line for a customer service representative. For Safeway, they will ask you for your full name and phone number and if you have a Safeway card number.
 
Suggested language: “I am calling to log a comment against a Safeway / Albertsons policy that sometimes puts restrictive deeds on its former properties and prevents other grocery stores from moving in, sometimes for 10 years or more. This has impacted community health. I would like Safeway / Albertsons to end this policy immediately.”
 

If they ask questions you cannot answer, feel free to provide our email: info@foodispower.org and remind them you are calling because you disagree with this practice.

Order some of our leaflets to share with others by emailing info(at)foodispower.org.

 
 

Join us by taking a stand in front of your local Safeway / Albertsons! Find a demo to attend here.

Want to organize your own demo? We can send you leaflets and posters. Contact us here for additional details.

 
 
Take action on social media with hashtag #ShameOnSafeway & #ShameOnAlbertsons and tagging Safeway & Albertsons.

Thank you for wanting to take a stand against a corporation that is impacting the health of Black and Brown communities and low-income neighborhoods.

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