COLORADO SPRINGS — People on the southeast side of Colorado Springs now have even more limited options for groceries. Last week a King Soopers store there closed with no set timeline to reopen, leaving only two other options nearby.
As News5 reported last week, the King Soopers on South Academy Boulevard is closed indefinitely because of a possible asbestos contamination that was discovered during a remodeling project. In an area where there's already limited grocery store options, residents are concerned.
It’s because southeast Colorado springs is known as a food desert, meaning there aren't many options for accessing fresh food.
“A lot of people come to King Soopers for their selection of veggies and fruit, as opposed to Walmart,” said Chineta Davis, a resident since the 1990s. “It makes people feel real uncertain about the future if you can’t even have a good location to get your food. It can be stressful and add a lot of stress to people’s lives.”
“When you think of our neighborhood, there's a few other grocery stores. But for people who maybe don't have a car or who are doing their grocery shopping from a wheelchair, that makes a huge difference,” said Jacqueline Armendariz Unzueta, another Southeast resident.
Neighbors in the Southeast community face more barriers to access food, including transportation, affordability, and time. So when one of the few grocery stores close, the impact is large.
“It’s one thing if you have a grocery store closure scenario where you have five options, but it's another thing when you really just had one lifeline to call upon,” said Jessie Bustamante, who works with Food to Power, a nonprofit increasing access to food.
Bustamante said neighborhoods facing the most barriers are the Hillside neighborhood, Stratton Meadows, Knob Hill, Pikes Peak Park and Deerfield Hills.
“King Soopers is situated right between Pikes Peak Park and Deerfield Hills. So this couldn't have happened in a worse location,” said Bustamante.
Bustamante said Food to Power has seen a large increase in traffic since the closure of the King Soopers. She added, they're currently working to come up with solutions to fill the need.
“We’re thinking about reaching out to transportation partners to see if that can be bridged for like more direct routes to the nearest options, and we're thinking about ways to bring farmers markets to that King Soopers space,” said Bustamante.
They're also interested in hosting a town hall to get input from the community.
For now, it's still a burden for neighbors who shop there.
“Just leaving people high and dry on their own when there's no other grocery store in this area, it's not fair,” said Davis.
”It was just really startling to see, you know, a major point of where people have food access and other you know, daily goods, shut down basically what seemed like from one night to today,” said Armendariz Unzueta. “And I think the bigger question with it for me as a community member, is whose responsibility is it when a huge gap like this occurs in the community?”
On top of the concern about accessing food in the southeast, the other concerns are the health of customers shopping at the grocery store, and those who have to pick up their medications there. Currently, a temporary mobile pharmacy has opened in the parking lot of the store.
The union for King Soopers also told News5, they have requested information including all copies of asbestos testing at stores. That request also includes wanting all copies of asbestos testing at the King Soopers store on South Academy Blvd. in the past 12 months. They requested to have that information by Friday, June 30.
There is no timeline on when the South Academy King Soopers location will re-open.
In a statement provided to News5: Care and Share, in collaboration with Pikes Peak United Way and Solid Rock, have planned immediate relief to the area impacted by the King Soopers closure with Care and Share's Mobile Market program. The Mobile Market is a no-cost grocery store on wheels that allows neighbors to shop for foods they need right off the truck. Last Tuesday, the Mobile Market provided groceries in the parking lot of Sierra High School to over 100 households. On Friday, June 30th, the Mobile Market will be available in the parking lot of Solid Rock from 4:30-6:30 PM. Care and Share and partners will continue to collaborate on providing food access while King Soopers remains closed.
Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.