CAMDEN - Developers are promising a second supermarket to open in Camden.
If the store is built, it will be a milestone for the city of nearly 80,000 that consistently ranks among the nation's poorest.
The city has only one supermarket now and planned new ones have never opened - largely because of the city's low-income demographics.
The result: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has labeled several neighborhoods as "food deserts."
The issue has become a big one in the city, and officials are recognizing the problem. State Sen. Donald Norcross, a Democrat from Camden, is sponsoring a bill that would use some tax revenue from businesses in Urban Enterprise Zones to fund loans and grants for urban grocery stores.
And in recent years, Camden has become a hotbed of community gardens. There are more than 100 now - enough to provide produce for about 1 in 10 of the city's residents.
But Michael Devlin, the founder of the Camden City Garden Club, which has had a role in establishing most of the gardens, says that's not enough because the gardens can't provide proteins and grains that people need. "People are just not eating properly," Devlin told The Philadelphia Inquirer for Monday's newspaper. "It is a crisis."
Residents must contend with long bus rides or shuttles to the suburbs to do their shopping - or must brave corner stores where the selection is small and the prices high. Some residents complain that the stores can be fronts or hangouts for drug dealers.
"We're at the mercy of the corner stores, and they are too damn high," said Mangaliso Davis, a community activist.
The new store would be part of a transit-oriented development next to the Ferry Avenue PATCO train station and developers say it could be open by mid-2012. No lease has been signed for the land, though.