Already on the edge of a burgeoning gentrification movement in 2010, Petworth has since taken off in economic growth and rising property values. "Artists" moved in, bike lanes and racks showed up beside streets overnight, coffee shops and niche stores sprang from seemingly nowhere. The new sprawling citadel of a Safeway returned triumphantly in 2014 to a coffee-scented community of swanky condo blocks, cyclists and more young White faces than ever.
Close to the far side of Petworth in neighboring Brightwood, the first Walmart in the District popped up not too long ago, complete with a fancy interior and a robust grocery section. These two huge stores bookended a long grocery-deficient area and promised to help irrigate the food desert at the heart of Petworth. But as the healthier and tastier food options replaced what previously existed, so did Whiter and wealthier faces replace the lower and middle-class Black and brown faces that had long lived and died there.
Grocery stores and farmers markets, it seems, are common components of gentrification with ambiguous results on increasing food justice. They are correlated with displacement of low-income residents in inner-city areas to low-resource suburban areas—"food hinterlands" where distance and transportation barriers often make nutrition issues worse. Perhaps, then, it's adequate to look at grocery stores more as agents of gentrification and potential weapons of cultural violence against the poor than as saviors for our country's obesity epidemic.