Huge areas across the south and south-west side of Chicago have been classified as food deserts, a region lacking fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods. Instead, these low-income districts are often left with little more than fast-food outlets and liquor stores.
It is an issue that is prevalent in Chicago’s south side but as CGTN’s Dan Williams reports, some communities are attempting to bring change.
Andrea Hood is a community leader. She is attempting to spread more awareness about the issue of food deserts and the effect it has on the neighborhood.
“The impact of living in a food desert, not having a proper grocery store, it does kind of force us to go to fast foods. So that’s not healthy, that creates diabetes and heart conditions and chronic illnesses,” Hood said. “High blood pressure and we are not just talking about the adults, we are talking about for the children as well.”
The Riverdale Community in the south of Chicago, is one of the city’s oldest food deserts. The shops have long since closed down, leaving the locals here with a long commute to the nearest supermarket. Residents are starting to fight back. A local house has been converted into a fresh food outlet. While these gardens provide organic vegetables for the community, organizers are also educating locals about the benefits of healthy eating.
“There is a great need for a garden in this particular area because the residents of this area are in the middle of a food desert. It is long past time that this community had quality access to food,” Pamela Clemons, a Horticultural assistant in the Riverdale said. “It’s an opportunity for them to find out possibly what they could do for themselves.”
The initiative is part of the Fresh Food project, a program that was funded by the Logan Foundation in order to find a solution to the issue. Added to that, there have been efforts by various organizations to operate weekly farmers markets in the southern area of the city. The hope here is for these ideas to be turned into something more permanent.
Deloris Lucas works with the project, “What we are doing is getting together as a community. We talked about a co-op. We talked about bringing a little mini mall where we talked about these different types of stores that bring food. We are trying to figure out what would be best for our community.”
A new state law now requires Illinois to track and then tackle the issue of food deserts. With tens of millions living in similar circumstances throughout the country, the success of various projects here could provide hope for other areas.
Parke Wilde discusses food subsidies and government aid programs
For more on the importance of having access to healthy food optioons and the role that government can play, CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke with Parke Wilde, a professor at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.