Roundup: Gas Station Dining in the Delta
Exploring gas station cuisine in Mississippi • A look behind the Modern Farmer curtain • Urban and rural recovery uneven • Teaching science in rural schools • The right to spread broadband • Housing shortages causing problems • Is voting the new selfie? • New poll of African American families
At least one half of the Daily Yonder editorial team has eaten a top-three-lifetime po’ boy at a tiny gas station near Leland, Mississippi. That gas station is Fratesi Brothers Grocery, and it’s part of a beautiful Bitter Southerner article on gas station cuisine in the Delta.
“Most gas stations don’t hang deer heads on the wall. I guess you could say we do things a little differently around here,” [Mark] Fratesi says. Farmers drop in at lunchtime for fried-olive po’ boys and housemade gumbo, then circle back around 5 p.m., when the seating area transforms into the “East Leland Country Club,” featuring a bounty of Budweiser and tall tales.
— Shawn Poynter
The New Yorker has a 5,900-word profile on Modern Farmer magazine and its founder and editor, Ann Marie Gardner. Gardner calls her publication a “farming magazine for media professionals” and “an international life-style brand.” That explains some of the merchandise we've seen advertised in Modern Farmer, such as the $37 leather jump rope and $295 casserole dish.
The split between urban and rural America in formal education levels, percentage of elderly population and cultural differences is deep and partly responsible for the uneven economic recovery, according to a story from NBC News. The video is packed with familiar news-reporting-from-rural-America imagery: Empty buildings on Main Street, locked gates, feral street dogs, cobwebs on doors. Yes, there are literally cobwebs in the video report. But the message is actually pretty good. “[Politicians] need to get out of Washington and come listen to the people in small, rural towns,” says on Georgia resident in the story.
The Atlantic takes a look at how shrinking budgets and teachers shortages are affecting the quality of science education in rural schools.
“With fewer students per school and limited funding to match, rural school districts have been behind in STEM education. “Rural districts are particularly concerned because, as we’re getting into 21st century learning, they’re having a hard time keeping up, largely due to money as well as [teacher] recruitment and retention issues,” said Denise Harshbarger, the supervisor for special projects at the North East Florida Education Consortium, an organization that represents the shared issues of 15 rural districts.”
Nineteen states have laws that restrict local governments from building or expanding broadband infrastructure. The New York Times visits a town, Wilson, North Carolina, that is petitioning the FCC to invalidate the laws, which now restrict municipal broadband from crossing county lines.
“We would probably be building tomorrow if the law changed today,” said Will Aycock, the general manager of Greenlight, Wilson’s public broadband service. “We’re not saying that we’re going to build out all of eastern Carolina or even all of our service territory tomorrow. But there are areas where we’d like to go now.”
Housing shortages in prosperous towns like Roseau, Minnesota, are stifling economic expansion. Traditionally, demand for housing creates opportunity for developers to build more apartments. But lower rents in rural communities mean the numbers don’t add up for developers, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Reporter Adam Belz writes about the complex factors that are holding up housing expansion in Roseau:
- Lower rents in small towns like Roseau make building new apartments far less attractive to developers. A developer would need to charge about $1,100 to $1,300 a month in rent to get the desired return on investment for new apartments. Rents in Roseau are much lower – typically around $600 a month.
- Economists usually point to low wages as the primary reason for lower rents. But that doesn’t explain all the difference in Roseau. Wages in northwest Minnesota are about 25% lower than wages in the Twin Cities, but rent is a whopping 80% lower in Roseau than the Twin Cities.
- The rural rental market works differently than the urban market, where there are larger pools of potential renters all in the same income category – a key ingredient for making apartment development work financially. Fewer renters in the same income category means apartments in complexes are more likely to sit vacant and “wreak havoc for a landlord.”
- Construction costs are higher because a number of contractors folded during the recession. Others are busy meeting construction demands in North Dakota, booming from oil production.
- New apartment complexes typically appraise for less than they cost to build.
Government grants and loans can help fill the gaps, Belz reports. But there are no easy solutions.
The bottom line is that the housing squeeze is affecting employment opportunity. Snowmobile manufacturer Polaris says it could add 200 workers if housing were available for them locally.
“Casting a ballot these days is more like taking a selfie than fulfilling the deliberative duty of democracy.”
That’s the Daily Yonder’s Bill Bishop writing in the Houston Chronicle about self-identity politics.
“People don't vote for or against public programs or in solidarity with their social or economic class; we vote to identify with our group, to express ourselves,” Bishop writes.
A joint poll by Ebony Magazine and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation released this week presents findings from their survey of 1,005 African American families. Job loss and financial insecurity were the top concerns for families. Here are some other findings from the survey:
- 74% think society isn’t doing enough to support young men and boys of color.
- Almost two-thirds say they are better off financially than they were five years ago, but 82% are concerned that whites still make more than blacks for doing the same jobs.
- 52% see the media portrayal of African-Americans as generally negative.
- 60% of respondents agree we are making progress in providing access to health care.
- Almost 1/3 are concerned that their children are not getting a quality education.
- 44% said they knew someone who had committed suicide or was killed.
- Seventy-four percent say efforts to reduce crime and violence in their neighborhood is losing ground or staying the same.
- 30% said “improving the creating more jobs/good paying jobs” is a top issue of concern.