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The same civil rights issues that impacted the general society in the 1960s also impacted the food industry.

Early in 1960, SN reported that two Houston-area retailers -- J. Weingarten & Co. and Henke & Pilot -- which had barred blacks from their lunch counters, were being picketed by black students carrying placards that read, "Hamburger to go? No!" and "I can drink coffee out of a bag but not out of a cup."

That issue was resolved by August 1960 when retail operators of food and department stores in the Houston area agreed to voluntarily integrate lunch counters and dining areas in their stores "in the best interest of their businesses," SN reported.

Race riots in 1968 in Southern California and Washington helped boost the industry's social conscience, with Clarence G. Adamy, president of the National Association of Food Chains, urging businesses to work with "responsible Negro community organizations" to solve the nation's social problems.

Later in 1968, the industry agreed to participate in a new government plan, called Project Own, which was designed to help minorities establish businesses in the inner city -- a program sponsored by the Small Business Administration -- in which the government would guarantee loans and act as a catalyst in developing managerial skills to help get minorities into business. "We'll be an important part of that program -- we'll be proud to do so," Adamy told SN.

In 1970, the White House Conference on Nutrition, chaired by Donald S. Perkins, president of Jewel Cos., recommended government aid for retailers building stores in inner-city areas.

Since then the industry has been active in working with various community agencies and local governments to help retailers move back into urban areas all over the United States.

Until the 1980s, inner-city renewal projects often focused on developing affordable housing, with scant attention paid to the development of retail.

However, that attitude changed as developers realized that inner-city residents were often forced to shop in small stores with poor selection, inferior products and service, and higher prices.

As a result, community development corporations have the option to invite supermarkets into an inner-city area or to acquire ownership interests in supermarket properties or shopping centers through development incentives and subsidies available to nonprofit entities.

Speaking to SN in 1997, Harvey Gutman, senior vice president, retail development, for Pathmark Stores, said, "We believe there are no overriding economic or operating reasons why consumers in inner-city locations should be less well-served by modern supermarkets than residents of the suburbs.

"There are certainly some greater challenges in urban areas, including higher land costs, higher construction costs and higher expenses, but we also see great opportunities in such areas."