Chicago’s Food Deserts

A major concern with large numbers of people already living in and migrating towards big cities is the distribution of food and the existence of food deserts.  It was found that in Chicago, 15 of the 22 communities that have no access to grocery stores were African American communities. This brings this concern from a one-dimensional sustainability issue to a multidimensional social issue. These food-deserted communities tend to be in low-income neighborhoods, African American neighborhoods, and neighborhoods that may lose a sense of their culture when denied access to a staple such as food. Many of these communities are found to have the same access to fast food restaurants as more affluent areas. However, they also have significantly less access to grocery stores with fresh food in their own neighborhoods and typically less sufficient transportation to get to the ones closest to them. It is this discrepancy that is particularly concerning. The lack of healthy, fresh food options is a major contributor to many other physical, mental and social issues that people may face.

When looking forward to a sustainable future, it clear that our success will be a community effort. There’s a seemingly infinite number of ways to start addressing the food deserts in Chicago (as well as other cities). In recent years to help make adjustments to the distribution of food in Chicago, Mayor Emanuel approved 30 new designated spots for movable fruit and vegetable stands, Whole Foods has opened additional locations, and the number of community gardens has grown. Many of the changes planners will consider are working towards offering these areas more food opportunity as well as new job opportunity. Providing new job opportunities and grocery locations offers residents not only a chance to help themselves, but the participation of educating more people about sustainability issues we face. It is vital to engage not only students and bright minds in the field, but the members of the communities they work with.




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