On Wednesday, Mayor Brandon Johnson announced a partnership with the Economic Security Project to pave the way for a municipally owned grocery store in Chicago. The Economic Security Project, a national nonprofit that aims to build economic power for all Americans, is lending its assistance in establishing the grocery store to improve food accessibility and equity for all Chicagoans.
If this initiative advances, Chicago would become the first major city in the country to have a municipally-owned grocery store to address food inequity.
“All Chicagoans deserve to live near convenient, affordable, healthy grocery options. We know access to grocery stores is already a challenge for many residents, especially on the South and West sides,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson in a statement.
The dearth of grocery stores has long been an issue in neighborhoods throughout the South and West Sides. Many of these neighborhoods are considered food deserts, where residents lack convenient access to grocery stores that sell fresh and nutritious food in their communities.
This issue was further exacerbated when Walmart closed four stores in April. Three of those stores were in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods in the city. A Whole Foods store in Englewood, a food desert, also closed in 2022 after being open for six years.
In a statement announcing plans for a municipally owned grocery store, the Mayor’s office cited statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which states that 63.5% of residents in West Englewood and 52% of residents in East Garfield Park live more than half a mile from their nearest grocery store. According to the statement, while 19% of residents are food insecure in the city, 37% of Black and 29% of Latine/x residents are considered food insecure.
“The City of Chicago is reimagining the role government can play in our lives by exploring a public option for grocery stores via a municipally owned grocery store and market,” said Ameya Pawar, Senior Advisor at Economic Security Project. “Not dissimilar from the way a library or the postal service operates, a public option offers economic choice and power to communities. 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.”
Feasibility study results will play a pivotal role in shaping the emerging food retail strategy of the Johnson administration. This strategy will be developed with experts, community leaders and Chicago’s Food Equity Council.
For more information about the Economic Security Project, please visit their website at economicsecurityproject.org. To learn more about Chicago’s Food Equity Council, please visit Chicago.gov/ChicagoFoodEquityCouncil.