CHICAGO, IL - In a groundbreaking move, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has announced a partnership with the Economic Security Project to explore the possibility of opening a municipally owned grocery store. The Economic Security Project, a national non-profit organization, will provide technical assistance to determine the feasibility of this initiative. The announcement was made on September 13, 2023, as part of the Johnson administration's ongoing efforts to address food inequity and accessibility in Chicago.
Mayor Johnson stated, “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. A better, stronger, safer future is one where our youth and our communities have access to the tools and resources they need to thrive.”
The initiative comes in response to the growing food deserts in Chicago, particularly in the South and West sides. According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 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. The issue is not just about food access but also about racial and environmental justice. Data shows that 37% of Black residents and 29% of Latine/x residents are food insecure, compared to 19% of residents overall.
Ameya Pawar, Senior Advisor at Economic Security Project, emphasized the transformative potential of the project, stating, “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 lack of adequate food retail has far-reaching implications, affecting community employment and local economies. Grocery store closures force residents to leave their neighborhoods, spending money outside their communities, thereby exacerbating the existing “retail gap” in many South and West side areas.
Anton Seals Jr., Lead Steward of Grow Greater Englewood, highlighted the significance of the initiative, saying, “This opportunity marks a pivotal moment to forge pathways for food accessibility, with the City recognizing its role as a key partner in addressing market shortcomings.”
The findings of the feasibility study will inform the Johnson administration’s emerging food retail strategy, which will also receive input from experts, community leaders, and Chicago’s Food Equity Council. If successful, Chicago would become the first major city in the United States to implement a municipally owned grocery store to address food inequity.