If you drive through any suburb of New Jersey, you could barely see a liquor store, a fast food restaurant or a church on your way. Yet, in the economically disfavored cities (i.e., East Orange, Orange, Irvington, Newark, etc…), all you see on every block are liquor stores, fast food restaurants (McDonald, Burger King, Wendy’s, Checkers, Popeyes, Chinese, etc…) and churches. And I truly believe it is like that in most, if not all, of the cities across the country. Trust me, there is a reason for that.

When in nursing school I was studying Community Health Nursing at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, I was extremely disturbed by this observation. As part of our final grade, we were to team up with a partner to work on a community health research. My partner and I were assigned to conduct a windshield survey in the city of East Orange to depict the socio-economic realities the citizens in that city were facing and how they (those realities) were impacting lives.

Windshield surveys are a form of information gathering mechanism, involving making direct visual observations of a neighborhood or community while driving. These types of surveys are quite an inexpensive, time-efficient approach to assess the social environment of a community. They can even be conducted on foot in the event that a vehicle is not available or practicable.

The purpose of the windshield survey my partner and I conducted was to gain a better understanding of the city of East Orange’s social environment in terms of its boundaries, housing conditions, use of open spaces, shopping areas, schools, religious facilities, human services (such as hospitals and physician offices), modes of transportation, protective services (such as fire and police stations), and the overall neighborhood life.

We were working closely with the health officials at the East Orange Public Health Department to retrieve and analyze health-related policies, prevalent diseases and statistical data. It was a very insightful research study, which was worth conducted.

Many may be asking why you only find the McDonalds, the Burger Kings, etc… in these economically challenged neighborhoods. Well, first of all, you cannot blame the city officials; they do not have control over that. It is pure economics –supply and demand. Why supplying a good or service to a population that does not have the financial or purchasing leverage to afford it? In other words, what is the sense for a fancy restaurant owner selling healthy food to come open a branch in a neighborhood where the people cannot afford to buy the exquisite meals? That would be really stupid, especially when we all know that business people are in business not for sympathy but for the purpose of making money.

What explanation do I have for the presence of the liquor stores and the churches in those neighborhoods? It is so because there is a demand for them. Otherwise, they would have not been there. Most of the people that live in poverty cling to their drugs to help them forget about the stressful lives they are living and their religion to give them a sense of hope. Do the people in the suburbs consume alcohol and honor their religion? Yes, they do, but demand is everything.

Could the city officials implement policies to discourage these businesses from opening shop in their neighborhoods? Well, that would be economically stupid on their parts, especially when we know the level of education of their constituents only equip them for these kinds of jobs. If they (these jobs) were to be pushed away, then what would happen to employment opportunities and tax revenues which the city governments desperately need to run their operations? So it is a vicious circle, which can only be broken and reversed (on a long-term basis) through a drastic agenda of social reforms with emphasis on investing in the people’s education to increase their socio-economic worth.


  1. This is so true.I think it’s a way to get minority people to be alchoolic and obese.ItNs a rare encounter to find a Mc donald store in an affluent and rich neighborhood.I live in a town with a mostly white people population.Let me tell you if I need some alchool or fast food I have to drive to the next town with mostly black and mexican.

  2. I wish I can disagree, but so far, you have been so righ to the point that I think you are reading my mind.

    I went house hunting in west roxbury and dedham(currently my home town)the other day, you are right, those were the first thing questions that came to mind. I guess it is a pure minority thing to do. Mind you, I don’t remember the last time I went to a fast food restaurant.

    Cheaper food, brings lots of sickness, the healthy folks are aware and educate themselves to the point of not having it around their town. They want to keep the cholesterol, high blood pressure ect to a minimum. Where at, those who least have want a quick bite for the day, 2 dollars wings at the crappy chinese food place, a dollar spicy wing at McDonald or burger king, it quickly fixes their hunger, but the healthy effects on them can sometimes be deadly.

    It is an economical decision for the state and the government because they know the only folks who would spent 7days eating this crappy food are the one with kids and less fortunate. They do bring lots of profits from the poor, it brings them enough money, the hospital doors are open daily to received the same folks they just fed to death.

    All the neighborhood/ city has a voice, they just need to be aware. sadly the group that can educate them, the state has either cut their funding an half or discontinuing the project funds . At the end, the cycle continue.

  3. Emann, I am sooo waiting for the article for me to disagree but again, you hit htis one right on the head. Education is paramount. This is the only way out of this maze. The worse thing that happened is the “Welfare to Work” program introduced by Clinton. They totally forgot about education. Instead gave people “jobs” with just enough pay to purchase their liquor and junk food but not enough to puchase a home out of the neighborhood.

    The business owners hire the people and receive all their tax credits and incentives. After 90 days, fire them and rehire another welfare recepiant and the cycle continues. Sometimes I wonder if the democrats are in our best interest.
    Again, people must starve and educate themselves or we will continue to see the demand increase for garbage in the neighborhoods. Thanks for another great article with a REAL point of view!

  4. It’s been like this since slave times.
    Since then master has been giving us his scraps to eat. The reason, to keep our minds malnourished. there are studies which show that when our bodies are given nourrishing foods our minds are clearer,… we think in a more acute and bold manner.
    The Master let us have churches to keep us ‘sheeply’. He wanted his flock in his religion listening to his ‘God’ so that they would stay meek, modest and constrained. And he would observe the sermons to make sure the religious leaders would keep it that way.
    As for liquor the white man knew that a good way to make the indians weaker was to give them alcohol. Since the indians were new to it they wouldn’t know how to control themselves and thus put themselves in a bad predicament. It worked. They used it on the black man for the same reason.
    After all these years we haven’t changed our diet, our liquor consumption and we kept the white man’s religion; so we haven’t changed our way of thinking.
    The writer of this “Ekspoze!” has not hit on anything new. He just didn’t see the real reasons through his windshield.

  5. I agree with your conclusion and would like to add that awareness of our situation and a reversal in our mindset is also key if this is to change. We must become aware as a community of why so many inner cities continue to function at an impoverish level and reverse our mindset about the role we play as individuals in keeping the status-quot. Although we are all aware that the education system offered in cities such as East orange is sub par, too many of people are not even getting that basic education let alone moving on to higher education. Each year the percentage of high school graduates drops and that only adds to keeping people impoverished (can’t get a job w/o even a high school education). If each individual took responsibility for themselves and graduated high school and move on to college (even community college) or trade school and learn a trade, things would gradually begin to change in inner cities. People wouldn’t need liquor stores in every corner, restaurants that serves healthier foods would then open in those areas because people would have jobs and be able o afford their foods. As far as the churches goes, I don’t think that would change because the church has always played a major role in the black community. It is a big part of our cultural identity and i don’t see that ever changing.

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