West Side grocery store closure highlights food inequity in Chicago | Chicago News


Theron Hawk has lived in West Garfield Park his entire life. He loves the area, especially the park and its greenhouse. About 10 years ago it moved to the 3800 block of West Monroe Street, just behind the neighborhood Aldi.

“Of course Aldi was the trump card,” Hawk said. “I got rid of my car, which is why it was so easy for me to make the switch.”

West Garfield Park, like other areas on the south and west sides, coping with poor access to foodwith few grocery options.

Now the West Side has one less grocery store. Last month, Aldi has closed its West Garfield Park location. An Aldi spokesperson said the store had closed due to declining sales.

Hawk says he now has to take an Uber to a Whole Foods on Halsted and Madison streets to get fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We have a store right across from Aldi,” Hawk said. “There’s a sign that says Madison Supermarket, but it’s not a supermarket. They’re like a candy store, a cigarette store, you can’t buy a loaf of bread there, you can’t buy a gallon of milk there.

Locals say the closure is worsening the region’s already inequitable access to food, and some are calling for the former Aldi building to be sold to another grocer. Meanwhile, food advocates say the situation points to a broader problem of food insecurity across the city, especially in low-income and black and brown communities that have faced decades of disinvestment.

“If a store leaves and we’re screwed, then we really have a food infrastructure and ecosystem problem in communities,” said Angela Odoms-Young, associate professor at Cornell University in the Division of Nutritional Sciences. .

Often referred to as food deserts – when residents must travel long distances to access fresh, healthy and culturally relevant food – community advocates prefer the term food apartheid, which encompasses the root causes of inequitable access to food. food, such as divestment and structural racism, Odoms- said Young.

“When you have to rely on a very small store, like a convenience store, to be the main source of your meals, it means you’re limited in the options that can be there. It is not the convenience store owner’s sole responsibility to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to an entire community. It’s about having options, it’s about having food. It’s about thinking about what’s local and what’s in season,” said Ruby Ferguson, Chicago food equity policy manager.

Poor access to food can lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but it also impacts mental health, Odoms-Young said.

“The mental health impact is that of lack of attention, when you feel people don’t care about your community and you’re constantly pushing and defending,” Odoms-Young said.

When grocery stores close, people can feel desperate, according to Odoms-Young. “You had very little and now you have even less.”

Odoms-Young and Ferguson say the key to fighting food apartheid is listening and responding to community needs.

“Place-based solutions have lasting results,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson says the Food Equity Council will use city-allocated US bailout dollars to invest in community-focused solutions, like family-run grocery stores with deeper community ties or to support urban agriculture and local growers .

In West Garfield Park, Hawk hopes the Aldi can be replaced by a black-owned grocer. Although the closure has made grocery shopping more difficult for him, Hawk says he’s more concerned about the area’s older residents who may not be able to use apps like Uber to get to another location. store.

“I think our community deserves better,” Hawk said.


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