Mayor Emanuel Addresses Food Desert Problem in Chicago

Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with executives from six major grocery chains on Wednesday to open a serious dialogue about eliminating food deserts in six targeted communities in Chicago, including North Lawndale, Douglas, Englewood, Chatham, Roseland and West Pullman.

“It is unacceptable that 450,000 Chicagoans do not have access to healthy, fresh foods for their family and I am committed to eliminating food deserts in our city,” said Mayor Emanuel “I am grateful to the executives who joined me today and their commitment to working together to ensure that all Chicagoans have access to the produce they need to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.”

Participating executives included: Gregory Wasson, President and CEO, Walgreens; Bill Simon, President and CEO, Walmart USA; Steven Burd , President and CEO, Safeway; Bob Mariano, CEO, Roundy’s; Pete Van Helden, Executive VP, Supervalu; Charles Youngstrom, Co-President, Aldi; and Jason Hart, Co-President, Aldi. Other companies were not able to participate due to scheduling conflicts.

At the meeting, each executive was given the opportunity to speak about their plans to expand into communities that lack access to fresh foods, and to begin a discussion with Mayor Emanuel about next steps.

Mayor Emanuel showed a map of food deserts in Chicago that used new data sets to create a much more refined map, and then built detailed business cases for specific plots of land in each desert area. The Mayor discussed the opportunities with the executives and encouraged them to develop a new store in these areas.

Additionally, the Mayor and the executives discussed areas in which stores hit obstacles – transportation, security, real estate and bureaucratic red tape – and agreed to work on the issues and reiterated that the executives have a partner in him.

Mayor Emanuel also said that the City will be working with the White House to set up a national model for healthy eating and living.

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2 Responses to “Mayor Emanuel Addresses Food Desert Problem in Chicago”

  1. So glad we are tallking openly about how to innovate solutions. We’ve had some good discussions about this issue in Bronzeville via our UrbanInnovationCenter.com and learned a few things.

    1. The Food Desert campaign is a great way to call attention to this issue, but we now have people on our Bus Tours literally asking us how do we eat and survive. We do have a Jewel’s at 35th Street, a Michael’s on 47th as well as stores in the South Loop and Hyde Park. (Let’s Keep in mind that like our Suburban Neighbors, people take the car or a bus to the shopping center).

    2. The corner convenience store today is called Walgreen’s all over the world and we applaud them and a few gas stations like the new Moblle on 39th Street for going the extra mile to include fresh fruits. We do need more affordable options and a broader selection, kudos to the Bronzeville Farmers Maket for accepting the LINK card and operating through June through Oct.

    3. We also need to recognize a destination Grocery Store that has been with us for decades the famous One Stop on 43rd & Lake Park. This store is the original stock-up store and has provided the opportunity to buy at a discount and by the case without needing to purchase a “club membership” and can compete with any Farmer’s Market on produce prices.

    4. We have started some roundtable discussions with our Jordanian merchants because the occupy a grocery store in Bronzeville under every Greenline stop. The may not call themselves Transit Oriented Development (TOD) businesses but that is exactly what they are and as Bronzeville becomes a more “sustainable” community we need to encourage new investment from these community employers. However, they also shared that they no longer have the produce and meat they once purchased, because it goes to waste. Their customers are not cooking — And this is where the BIG educational marketing campaign needs to start. (The new interest in cooking programs may provide greater interest that nutrition facts.) The new Bronzeville Cookin’ restaurants in the 51st Street Culinary & Entertainment District will support this type of education.

    5. The Urban Scale Walmart may be one of the answers, but looking at each neighborhood uniquely — we are encouraged by the vision of developer Quentin Primo of Capri Capital to bring The Metropolis a new lifestyle center where CHICAGO-Milwaukee-based Roundy s Supermarkets Inc. would sign a leases for a Mariano s Fresh Market .
    The Real Estate market has stalled these plans and a few additional tenants will be need to get this development moving. Let’s find some additional incentives for them and the next group of Magic Johnson investors to make this Center an excitng shopping destination in Bronzeville.

    Good move on the Summit Mayor Emanuel, let’s keep holding up what works and finding the real answers.

  2. D. Kizaire says:

    This is one approach that would address the food desert issue but it leaves another unaddressed and that is restoring an economic base in the community.

    The jobs created by major grocery stores don’t keep enough dollars in the community. We need to support more locally owned and operated markets that provide nutritous choices at reasonable prices.