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Select Walgreen's To Serve Groceries In "Food Desert" Areas of City

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Aug 11, 2010 6:40PM

A vacant Jewel at 30th and Halsted.

According to Feeding America, 1 out of every 4 children in the country are food insecure,which means they live on the brink of going hungry. In her 2009 Food Desert Progress Report, researcher Mari Gallagher estimated over 600,000 Chicagoans lived in areas of the city that weren't easily accessible to fresh groceries. Of that number, one-third are children. What serves as a grocery store in these areas is often a corner convenience store with limited options for fresh, canned or frozen food. Ultimately, residents of food deserts are typically buying junk food with their money or SNAP assistance, which increases the childhood obesity epidemic in these neighborhoods, as well as increased health risks.

Walgreen's has taken an unprecedented step and has been working since last autumn to convert 10 locations in designated food deserts into all-purpose grocery stores, at Mayor Daley's request. These locations will offer over 750 food items such as fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen meat and fish, pasta, rice, beans, eggs and whole-grain cereals. It's a good first step to a long-standing problem, but without education on nutrition, health and a proper diet, it's not enough. Walgreen's is also working with Northwestern Medicine and Near North Health Service Corporation to provide that educational training and, hopefully, start reversing a trend that extends across generations.