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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

So your closest grocery store is closing. What now?

With bfresh in Davis closing, should Tufts do more to improve grocery access?

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The bfresh supermarket located in Davis Square is pictured on Oct. 3.

According to management, bfresh in Davis Square is slated to close at 6 p.m. on Thursday. This marks the closure of the only full-service grocery store in Davis Square and the closest one for many Tufts students. The store’s closure raises the question of grocery accessibility and affordability. Unlike many other nearby grocery and convenience stores, bfresh offers a 5% student discount. For students, this closure means less convenience and potentially higher grocery prices.

For students with a car, these problems are easily remedied. Just a short drive across the Mystic River, there’s a plethora of grocery stores and shopping plazas. But for those of us without cars, we have little recourse. 

If you live by Powder House Circle, the next closest full-service grocery store is a mile away. That’s over 20 minutes by foot. While public transportation is available, it’s more lip service than functional transit service. You could take the Red Line one stop from Davis to Porter and shop at Target or Star Market, or you could hop onto the 87 or 80 buses and go to the Stop & Shop on Alewife Brook Parkway or the Whole Foods on Mystic Valley Parkway, respectively. The only problem is that slow zones or long headways on all three options mean you likely won’t save time and instead would simply be adding $3.40 or $4.80 to your weekly grocery bill. 

With winter fast approaching and the MBTA showing no signs of getting its act together anytime soon, students should rest easy knowing the administration is working to fill the gap in regional transit service. Students here are no strangers to the difficulties of navigating a failing public transportation system, and the closure of one of the closest grocery stores in the Tufts area, combined with the MBTA’s ever-mounting problems, create a perfect storm.

Luckily, there’s already been some progress on the issue. Even before the bfresh closure was announced, the TCU Senate and the administration were already taking steps to combat food insecurity and make groceries more accessible. This semester, Tufts made permanent a pilot program for a weekly grocery shuttle to the Fellsway Plaza Stop & Shop, and a free food pantry was established last spring. Similarly, Tufts Dining recently announced that the Stop & Shop on Alewife Brook Parkway will now be accepting JumboCash. These are important measures, sure, but they ultimately fall short. The grocery shuttle runs only on Saturday, and JumboCash does nothing to make it easier to get to the store.

The question remains, what else can be done? Well, for starters, the university should consider adding a stop on the Joey at the Mystic Valley Parkway Whole Foods. But why here? Isn’t Whole Foods more expensive than its less ‘bougie’ competitors? Well, not actually. While Whole Foods earned a reputation for overcharging customers after a 2015 investigation by the New York Department of Consumer Affairs, more recent data suggests that its prices are now comparable with its competitors.

Students can get an additional 10% off on-sale items and a slew of other weekly discounts at Whole Foods by signing up for Amazon Prime with their Tufts credentials. While a subscription isn’t free, it will be for a six-month trial period and then it’s only $7.49 per month. With a variety of other discounts that come with Prime, like a year of Grubhub+, a free month of CourseHero, access to Prime Video and much more, the verdict is clear — it’s well worth it.

With its competitive prices and additional discounts, Whole Foods is clearly an optimal choice for Tufts students looking for a new go-to grocery store. This Whole Foods has a few extra perks too, mainly that it shares a building with a Starbucks. There’s nothing better than a good pumpkin cream chai or a pumpkin spice latte after a great grocery haul! You just saved all that money on groceries, so might as well treat yourself, right?