“It’s an inconvenience, it really is, you don’t really think about it until it’s not there anymore,” said Albert Buruato, who lives nearby.   

Several months after a fire destroyed the Safeway grocery store near 35th Avenue and Northern, people who live in the area are now living in what’s considered a "food desert". It’s an area where access to affordable, healthy food options like fruits and vegetables are limited or non-existent because grocery stores are too far away.

“I use Uber Eats a little more now than I ever had before,” said Buruato.

“For people that live in apartments all around here and stuff, it’s hard on them now,” said Jeannette Zielinski, who used to shop at the store. “They’re disgusted in a way because they have to get on a bus to go shopping now. They’re not happy.”

Now folks around here have to plan ahead.

“There’s been a couple of times where I’ve actually had to change my meal plan, because didn’t have something in the house and it’s a little inconvenient to drive to go get something, whereas before I lied right around the corner, so this was literally a 2-minute drive if that,” said Buruato.  

He’s not alone. In fact, more than 23 million people live in food deserts across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service and nearly half of those people are also low-income.

“It’s going to make the area go down, depressing and I think the area will fall apart more,” said Zielinski. “I’d like to see another grocery store or some kind come in here.”

People who live in the area are hopeful.

“I think the area would come back up,” she said. “The whole mall would come back up and it would really help.”

Safeway management considered rebuilding the store, but decided against it, because there are still six other Safeway stores in the same area.