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Mayor: Foodmaster closing could put strain on Melrose seniors

Posted by Jarret Bencks  November 15, 2012 10:50 AM

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As Johnnie's Foodmaster prepares to shutter all its locations, Melrose will soon be out of options when it comes to affordable groceries, according to Mayor Rob Dolan.

That poses a problem for seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes and can't drive, Dolan said. The city already had been looking into bolstering its senior transportation options when Foodmaster announced its plans to shut, Dolan said.

"When Johnnie's called and said they were thinking about closing, I said, 'Oh gosh, we've got to figure this out,'" Dolan said Thursday.

Dolan announced Tuesday that the city purchase a second van for senior citizens, which will make regular trips to at least one grocery store outside Melrose.

Whole Foods has announced it plans to convert the Foodmaster on Main Street into one of its grocery stores, but that will take about a year, Dolan said. And the store may not be affordable enough for many low-income shoppers, he said.

The van will be purchased with a $40,000 grant from the Adelaide Breed Bayrd Foundation and the city will kick in $20,000 to pay for a driver, Dolan said. The city has operated one van for about 37 hours per week since 2008, which takes seniors to doctors offices in Melrose.

The second van will provide seniors with regular transportation to at least one grocery store outside of Melrose, and may also provide transportation to some doctors offices in nearby communities, Dolan said. The details will to be determined by the city's Council on Aging, he said.

Dolan said he hopes he can strike a deal with Shaws, the city's only remaining supermarket once Foodmaster closes, that will make shopping more affordable for seniors.

"The goal is to keep this business in Melrose, but I think there is a moral obligation to help people living on food stamps to get them where they need to go," Dolan said.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JarretBencks.

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