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Furman professor’s book debates ‘food desert’ concept in Greenville and beyond

Map of Greenville, Unity Park, and outlying communities
West Greenville and the Southernside community figure large in Kolb's book. / Photo of Unity Park by MKSK Studios.
The cover of Kenneth H. Cole's book "Retail Inequality"
Kolb’s book is published by University of California Press.

In his new book, “Retail Inequality: Reframing the Food Desert Debate,” Ken Kolb seeks to upend long-held beliefs about the availability of healthy food in lower-income neighborhoods, or lack thereof. He says up until around 2010, academia, and then later, the news media, pointed to the dearth of neighborhood grocery stores as the culprit behind unhealthy food choices. But the problem runs much deeper than that, according to Kolb in a review of the book appearing in The Post and Courier by Eric Connor.

Kolb, professor and chair of the sociology department at Furman University, wrote, ‘“Looking back, I see how my rush to the local food solution was really just the safe way out. My privilege blinded me: it wasn’t about fruits and vegetables, it was about racism and poverty.”’

Connor cites Kolb’s assertion that what communities really need is public and private reinvestment in their neighborhoods, not an influx of fresh produce.


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