Business, Food, News

Lynn seniors group protests closing of downtown Shaw’s

Members of the Mass Senior Action Council protested near Shaw's Supermarket Tuesday, trying to raise awareness for the food insecurity loss the supermarket will create for Lynn's seniors. (Jim Wilson)

LYNN — Some of the city’s seniors are steaming about the closure of Shaw’s, which they say will lead to food insecurity because it leaves them without a supermarket and pharmacy within walking distance.

Massachusetts Senior Action Council is working with Ward 5 City Councilor Dianna Chakoutis to develop a plan for transportation to other grocery stores in the city to temporarily fill the void. Shaw’s is scheduled to close on Feb. 16.

“We’re hoping somebody kicks in with some van service or something so people will be able to get their groceries because right now, a lot of them don’t have a car,” said Kathy Paul, a 71-year-old Lynn resident and Mass Senior Action member.

Paul said the State Street store was within walking distance for seniors living at places such as St. Mary’s Plaza and St. Stephen’s Tower Apartments. Paul lives near Shaw’s at Wall Plaza.

A lot of her neighbors at those senior housing complexes are walkers. She said those seniors don’t use The RIDE, which transports many seniors and others with disabilities to essential services such as grocery stores and doctors’ appointments, because the cost adds up quickly.

Paul said walking to the city’s other supermarkets, Market Basket on Federal Street, Stop & Shop on Washington Street, and PriceRite on the Lynnway, and then back home would be too much of a strain on the elderly who live near Shaw’s, especially in the winter.

“You’re hoping a relative or neighbor or somebody can take you, but that doesn’t always happen and some people are just too proud to ask somebody, ‘Can you give me a ride to the supermarket,'” said Paul.

Douglas Maitland, of Lynn, a senior who lives nearby, said the closure of Shaw’s leaves him stranded.

“What option do I have,” Maitland said. “I can’t walk to Market Basket. I like to walk to where I shop and I can’t if this store closes. I’d like to support people who cater to the elderly and this store has in the past catered to the elderly.”

Maitland said the pharmacy at Shaw’s is heavily used by retired seniors relying on medication. They can’t get along without it, he said.

The closure of Shaw’s will make it even more difficult for many of the city’s low-income residents, including seniors, to have access to a full-service grocery store and fresh food, according to Dianne Kuzia Hills, executive director of My Brother’s Table, the Lynn-based organization that serves free meals to those in need.

Lynn already ranks in the top 10 communities in the state with the most significant grocery gap, areas where residents are underserved by available groceries and markets, according to the Massachusetts Food Trust. Lynn ranked eighth on the list released as part of a 2017 report.

Pam Edwards, community organizer with Mass Senior Action, said the announcement of the closure only gave them four weeks to figure out a plan.

“Our goal right now is wanting to fill the gap temporarily with Councilor Chakoutis, working with them, with some kind of transportation and prescription fill-in,” said Edwards. “Our goal is going to be to have a say in what goes in the neighborhood, where we live … We definitely don’t want any more market-rate apartments coming in whenever there’s this big void here.”

Chakoutis said she was working on possible transportation options to other stores, but declined to disclose details until Friday.

Plans for the future use of the Shaw’s building have not been determined. A spokeswoman with Brixmor Property Group, the New York firm that owns the property where Shaw’s is located, said the firm is seeking to fill the space with “best-in-class retailers that meet the needs of the Lynn community.”

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