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New Report Shows Progress in Chicago's Food Deserts

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Oct 24, 2011 2:40PM

A vacant jewel at 30th and Halsted is now a thriving Cermak Fresh Market.

Strategist and consultant Mari Gallagher released another update to her landmark 2006 study on food insecurity in Chicago this morning. (PDF)

The report shows significant progress in the fight against food deserts and food insecurity, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

Gallagher's new report shows the number of families that are food insecure in Chicago has decreased 40 percent since her inaugural study five years ago, to nearly 384,000. In the Land of Plenty, however, even those numbers are still staggering and unacceptable.

- Of that number, more than 124,000 are children, the population of Naperville, Illinois.
- Chicago’s Food Desert children could fill to capacity 2,484 school buses. If all of these busses lined up bumper-to-bumper, they would stretch from President Obama’s Chicago house in Hyde Park, to City Hall on LaSalle Street, and then to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house.
- Nearly 70,000 Food Desert households are headed by single women with children.
- 40,000 Food Desert households do not own cars.
- Based on the Drilldown, Gallagher said the target date to eliminate the Chicago Food Desert completely should be 2015, as more and more grocers have announced plans to enter the Food Desert and strategic data can identify the highest impact sites. The firm will repeat the analysis every six months beginning in early 2012 until this is accomplished.
- Gallagher also stressed that over 880 million dollars from the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP - formerly known as Food Stamps), flowed through Chicago in 2010, and that many of the Food Desert SNAP stores are “fringe” meaning that they sell very little if any healthful food.

Hopefully more grocery stores (and not just Aldi and Food4Less) and the new Urban Agriculture Ordinance will further reduce that number.