City Council News

Task force pushes for grocery stores in every neighborhood

Daily Southtown
By Jonathan Lipman
Chicago can do more to get grocery stores into neighborhoods that don't have
them, says a task force tackling the problem of "food access."
Some Chicago communities, such as West Lawn, have no neighborhood grocery
stores.
The southern half of the city has fewer grocers overall, business consultant
Mari Gallagher said. While there are pockets of problems on the Southwest Side, the problem is
worse in poor and minority communities to the east.
"It can be very difficult to buy healthy food, ... which is especially
troubling because of a lot of people living in these communities have high
blood pressure and other health needs," Gallagher said.
Aldermen began focusing on the issue last summer, when community groups such
as the West Lawn Chamber of Commerce pointed out many South Side residents
must travel north or to the suburbs to find a grocery store.
"If you want to bring fresh produce, fresh meats to communities ... we have
to look at some additional ways to help finance these projects," said task
force member David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants
Association.
Alds. Manuel Flores (1st) and Margaret Laurino (39th) last month created the
task force of community advocates, academics and industry representatives.
The group made its first report to Laurino's economic development committee
Monday.
The group applauded a city plan to hold a "grocery store expo" Feb. 14 that
will let grocers meet with city officials who hope to encourage investment
in new stores.
The planning department has invited established chains such as Jewel Food
Stores and Dominick's Finer Foods as well as companies that haven't opened
stores in Chicago yet, spokeswoman Constance Buscemi said.
Grocery store owners need financial help in some communities, Vite said,
suggesting Chicago use sales tax rebates that are popular incentives in some
suburbs. He also pressed for less regulation, a perennial complaint of store
owners in Chicago.