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Food access and security

In the past two years, at least six grocery stores have shuttered in Chicago’s South and West side neighborhoods, limiting residents’ access to basic necessities.

According to the mayor’s office, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 63.5% of residents in West Englewood and 52% of residents in East Garfield Park live more than half a mile from the nearest grocery store, whereas in West Town, less than 1% of residents experience this barrier to food access.

When Whole Foods shuttered its Englewood location in 2022, the city acknowledged the area as a “food desert.” That desert only grew more sparse in April this year, when Walmart announced the closure of three stores in Chicago’s South and West sides, as well as one store in the more affluent North Side.

In a post announcing the closures, the retail giant said its “Chicago stores have not been profitable” since the first one opened nearly 17 years ago.

“These stores lose tens of millions of dollars a year, and their annual losses nearly doubled in just the last five years,” Walmart wrote in a news release. “The remaining four Chicago stores continue to face the same business difficulties, but we think this decision gives us the best chance to help keep them open and serving the community.”

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Bringing 'power to communities'

If the Windy City greenlights the project, it would make Chicago the first major U.S. city to launch a municipally owned grocery store to address food inequity, according to the mayor’s office.

“Not dissimilar from the way a library or the postal service operates, a public option offers economic choice and power to communities,” Ameya Pawar, a senior adviser at the Economic Security Project. “A city-owned grocery store in the South or West side of Chicago would be a viable way to restore access to healthy food in areas that have suffered from historic and systemic disinvestment.”

The Economic Security Project is a nonprofit economic advocacy organization.

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About the Author

Bethan Moorcraft

Bethan Moorcraft

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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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