Reframing the Food Desert Debate with Ken Kolb

Reframing the Food Desert Debate with Ken Kolb

January 25th 2022 | 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Hub City is excited to welcome Ken Kolb, professor and chair of the Sociology Department at Furman University, to the Bookshop for a discussion of his new book Retail Inequality: Reframing the Food Desert Debate. Based on comprehensive research into the histories and struggles of two Black neighborhoods in Greenville, SC, the book examines recent efforts to increase access to healthy food in American cities, and reveals the variety of reasons why such efforts have fallen short.

In addition to discussing his book, Kolb will also make a presentation tailoring his research to the city of Spartanburg, and examining the underlying causes of retail inequality here in our own community. Tapping into the same history of urban planning policy compiled by Beatrice HIll and Brenda Lee for the Hub City Press book South of Main, Kolb will discuss the cultural and political forces behind unequal access to food and reveal the way in which the phenomenon we know as the "food desert" is actually rooted in fundamental issues of inequality. 

Come out to the shop at 6pm on Tuesday, January 25th! Save your seat and your copy of the book below.


Regsiter Here 

Retail Inequality: Reframing the Food Desert Debate

by Kenneth H. Kolb


Retail Inequality examines the failure of recent efforts to improve Americans' diets by increasing access to healthy food. Based on exhaustive research, this book by Kenneth H. Kolb documents the struggles of two Black neighborhoods in Greenville, South Carolina. For decades, outsiders ignored residents' complaints about the unsavory retail options on their side of town—until the well-intentioned but flawed "food desert" concept took hold in popular discourse. Soon after, new allies arrived to help, believing that grocery stores and healthier options were the key to better health. These efforts, however, did not change neighborhood residents' food consumption practices. Retail Inequality explains why and also outlines the history of deindustrialization, urban public policy, and racism that are the cause of unequal access to food today. Kolb identifies retail inequality as the crucial concept to understanding today’s debates over gentrification and community development. As this book makes clear, the battle over food deserts was never about food—it was about equality.

"Why do some neighborhoods have pawn shops and payday lenders while others have organic grocery stores and cafes? Kolb tackles this question head-on and explains with clear and convincing prose how racist policies and practices have led to retail inequality in US cities. A must-read for anyone interested in food deserts in particular and urban inequality in general."––Tanya Golash-Boza, author of Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach

"In this excellent book, Kenneth H. Kolb argues that retail inequality is not some random economic aberration—rather, it is directly tied to policy and planning and it is also the private and public sector outcome of our inability to deal with our number one problem: race in America.”–––Julian Agyeman, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University

About the Author


Ken Kolb is a professor and chair of sociology at Furman University in Greenville, SC. 
Ever since returning from the Peace Corps to finish his PhD in Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kolb has spent the past 20 years conducting community-based research. He analyzes social problems with the goal of proposing practical solutions that harness readily available resources. By conducting in-depth interviews and spending time with neighborhood groups, Kolb seeks to empower the people he studies by providing them with the data they need to convince policy makers to take their complaints seriously.  
His first book, Moral Wages: The Emotional Dilemmas of Victim Advocacy and Counseling, was published in 2014. In that book, he provided a vivid depiction of what it is like to work inside an agency that assists victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. 
Ken Kolb is an expert on social inequality, community development, and pragmatic solutions to persistent social problems.   

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