WBEZ | Mari Gallagher http://www.wbez.org/tags/mari-gallagher Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en USDA to crack down on convenience stores that accept food stamps http://www.wbez.org/news/usda-crack-down-convenience-stores-accept-food-stamps-109895 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/corner store_140320_nm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The recently enacted federal farm bill has a new provision requiring that convenience stores sell healthier food.</p><p>It requires &ldquo;depth of stock&rdquo; on the shelves of convenience stores that are in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, commonly known as food stamps.</p><p>Depth of stock means more varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains and meats.</p><p>&ldquo;Our goal is really primarily to make sure SNAP households or low-income households or people with limited income have access to healthy foods,&rdquo; said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.</p><p>Concannon said 82 percent of SNAP benefits are redeemed at supermarkets or big-box stores. The challenges are the small stores often in low-income neighborhoods. Last year USDA held <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fculture%2Fusda-seeks-input-food-stamp-program-108659&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGOlQP568wSsZPHjrqVQgY-yFPpgA">hearings</a> around the nation about policy changes at convenience stores.</p><p>Food access is a big issue in Chicago food deserts. Gas stations, liquor stores, dollar stores and corner stores are the most common grocers. They accept food stamps, but these retailers are typically repositories for junk food.&nbsp; And a common complaint has been that the USDA food stamp standards are too low and those low standards aren&rsquo;t enforced.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s too minimal, frankly,&rdquo; Concannon said.</p><p>The USDA has to iron out the regulations but officials want the new rules to be in place by the end of the year. Once they are released, there will be a comment period before the changes take effect.</p><p>Concannon said USDA won&rsquo;t object if stores drop out of the program once the stricter regulations are in place. But food stamps are a boon for retailers. Across the country SNAP provides $80 billion in food stamp benefits. In Chicago, researcher Mari Gallagher said the Roseland community, a food desert, has 87 stores that take food stamps, earning on average $5,000 a week.</p><p>Only two of those Roseland stores are &ldquo;mainstream,&rdquo; which means they stock enough options to support a healthy diet on a regular basis. The rest were &ldquo;fringe&rdquo; stores that had limited food choices and specialized in high-fat and high-salt junk food.</p><p>Gallagher said the federal changes are necessary.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;m super excited about how fringe stores could improve and serve the community in the future and help their own bottom line,&rdquo; Gallagher said. &ldquo;Being in SNAP is not an inherent right. It&rsquo;s a privilege they need to learn.&rdquo;</p><p>But she wants the USDA to put in safeguards for enforcement.</p><p>&ldquo;People might not be worried about tougher rules because who&rsquo;s going to enforce them?&rdquo; Gallagher suggests that the federal government partner with local public health authorities to ensure compliance.</p><p>Shamar Hemphill, an organizer with Inner-City Muslim Action Network, agrees about accountability. IMAN&rsquo;s approach to help eliminate food deserts is to not wait for a big-box store to come, but to improve existing corner stores where many people shop.</p><p><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fnews%2Flocal%2Fmuslim-coalition-targets-arab-run-stores-food-deserts&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEFUj4BlBCWMPPNR3H1dQxlIrIKnQ">Muslim Run</a> is the name of the campaign and it has expanded to four stores. Organizers have had <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fcorner-stores-become-oases-food-deserts-96575&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHFqby93zdO0vrrMuZT0hfidwKFeA">success</a> in getting fresh produce not only stocked but sold.</p><p>Hemphill said he looks forward to the new federal regulations but change &ldquo;won&rsquo;t happen unless the residents push and demand that these stores operate and carry these staple foods.&rdquo;</p><p>Frank Hafeez manages Halsted Grocery on 71st Street. The liquor-convenience store in Englewood has a tray of lemons, oranges, grapes and wilted green bell peppers. Boxes of potatoes and onions are stacked by the door.</p><p>&ldquo;I would like to know more,&rdquo; Hafeez said of the federal regulations. &ldquo;We carry what customers request.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, the Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights met about Chicago food deserts at Kennedy-King College on Thursday. The committee will make recommendations on how to eradicate food deserts in the next couple of months.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a><u>&nbsp;</u></em></p><p><em>Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/usda-crack-down-convenience-stores-accept-food-stamps-109895 Mari Gallagher: Food desert super sleuth http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/mari-gallagher-food-desert-super-sleuth-98008 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/corner%20store_flickr_Eric%20Alix%20Rogers.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Mari Gallagher’s first task is finding out what is sold at all kinds of retailers, like this corner store in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. (Flickr/Eric Alix Rogers)"></div><p>Mari Gallagher gets a Google alert every time someone uses the term “food desert” online. That’s because she popularized the term -- used to describe locations where it’s harder to find fresh produce and other healthy options than fast food or processed goods -- in a landmark 2006 study that revealed as many as 650,000 Chicagoans were then living without easy access to healthy food.</p><p>Thanks to new retail options and other changes, that number has shrunk to around 383,000, according to <a href="http://www.marigallagher.com/site_media/dynamic/project_files/Final_2011_ChgFD_drilldown.pdf">a 2011 report</a> issued by Gallagher and her team. Still, she says, you’d be shocked at how hard it can be to find “a banana that doesn’t look like it got in a fight with another banana” or “produce that doesn’t come out of a can” in many Chicago neighborhoods. (A young woman who tweeted that she now lived in a food desert because “Whole Foods didn’t stock her favorite kind of sushi anymore” had missed the point, Gallagher adds.)</p><p>Gallagher’s food desert analysis produced grim findings that are now an accepted part of the dialogue around food access-- stats like African-Americans in Chicago have to go twice as far as white residents to find a grocery. But all of Gallagher’s research starts with the most simple question: What retail exists where and what does it sell? It’s harder to answer than you might think.</p><p>The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more commonly called “food stamps,” has its own way of classifying the various kinds of stores that sell food. The government agency used to make those classifications public, Gallagher says. Now it doesn’t (although it still catalogs participating outlets in <a href="http://www.snapretailerlocator.com/">its searchable online database</a>).</p><p>Even when the USDA’s taxonomy was publicly available, Gallagher found that their classifications weren’t always accurate. While doing research in Detroit in 2007, Gallagher says she came across places with names like “Jimmy Jack’s Liquor Shack” that were labeled as “medium-sized grocery stores.”</p><p>Then, she says, the USDA would release “stats like ‘84% of all food stamp dollars were spent in grocery stores in 2010,’ when first of all, it depends on how you’re coding a supermarket.” Gallagher argues that inaccurate labeling of retailers makes it much harder to combat food insecurity. “We think it’s a bigger deal in low-access areas,” she says. “We’re very concerned about these specific areas where there are so many bad apples and so few mainstream [food retailers].”</p><p>All of this categorical confusion means that Gallagher has to be a super sleuth: Step one in her process is figuring out where the stores are, and what they sell.</p><p>Some places are easier to assess, like national or regional chains that have predictable stock. “A Jewel is a Jewel,” for example, and Gallagher says she’s never seen a 7-11 that sells enough produce to qualify as a “mainstream” retail outlet based on her team’s definition.</p><p>It’s much tougher when it comes to assessing corner stores, the kind of mom-and-pop operations that are often the closest retail option for people in food deserts. With these kinds of places, Gallagher sometimes goes undercover.</p><p>“You pretend like you’re a customer,” she says. “You call and say, ‘We’re new in town and we don’t know that much about your store. I’m wondering for my kid’s lunch -- do you have these things: apples, oranges, fresh spinach?’” She gets mixed reactions from such sleuthing. “Sometimes people will yell at you, ‘We don’t have any of that stuff!’ And hang up on you,” she says. “It happens a lot.”</p><p>Sometimes when Gallagher hits the pavement in places like Washington, D.C. or Alabama, she’ll come across stores where it’s not clear if they’re out of business or merely closed. So she asks around.</p><p>“I’ve done things like find the closest social service agency, a church or daycare, something across the street,” she says. She gives them the same “new in town” routine, and often gets good information. “People will say, ‘Oh, that’s mostly a liquor store,’ or ‘It doesn’t open ‘til 1,’ or ‘You know what? It’s closed.” Ask, Gallagher says, and “you’ll know more.”</p><p>Gallagher says that she feels “a little bad operating under a pretext,” but argues it’s for a good cause.</p><p>“If you told them you were a researcher, it would be too complicated,” she says. She loves having to reclassify corner stores when, in response to efforts like a Chicago-area public health initiative that provides seed money and refrigeration equipment, they start stocking more produce.</p><p>But, she says, the most important thing is to stay neutral -- to figure out the honest truth of what’s available at a given store and what’s not.</p><p>“If you get angry, you’ll lose your ability to sort fact from fiction,” she says. “You’re in the eye of the storm. Some people will love what you find, some people will hate it. But you’re trying to uncover the best information you can, to keep your neutrality, without spin one way or the other.”</p><p>Gallagher spoke at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in March, and shared some of the back story of her ongoing research. In the audio above, she discusses the challenges of getting such accurate info and explains why sleuthing in the field is such a crucial part of her process. &nbsp;</p><p><a href="../../series/dynamic-range"><em>Dynamic Range</em></a><em> showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Mari Gallagher spoke at an event presented by the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in March. Click </em><a href="../../story/re-thinking-soup-looking-oasis-97588"><em>here </em></a><em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p><p><em>Gallagher will appear at an event called Chicago's Food Deserts: How you can have an impact, at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on Tuesday April 17 from 7 to 9 p.m.</em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly attributed the term "food desert" to Gallagher. She popularized the term in her 2006 report, but did not coin it. </em></p></p> Sat, 07 Apr 2012 06:00:56 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/mari-gallagher-food-desert-super-sleuth-98008 Report: Fewer Chicagoans living in food deserts http://www.wbez.org/story/report-fewer-chicagoans-living-food-deserts-93338 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-20/002.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A new report says the number of people living in food deserts has decreased in Chicago. But hundreds of thousands of families still don’t have access to healthy food.</p><p>In the past five years, there’s been more awareness around food deserts. Those are areas where grocery stores are scarce and that can lead to long-term health problems for residents.</p><p>Mari Gallagher has put out a new report. She helped popularized the term in 2006.</p><p>"The Chicago food desert has declined in population almost 40 percent and this is huge but the key point, too, is we still have a long way to go," Gallagher said.</p><p>Gallagher said some big-name grocery stores have come into communities. Yet the food desert problem tends to lie in African-American neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.</p><p>Gallagher said one area that can be improved is in the food stamp program. She said many fringe grocery stores accept food stamps but lack healthy options. And the federal government has lax oversight.</p><p>Below are stores that take food stamps. They are within a half-mile radius of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/urban-farm-breaks-ground-englewood-93170">Growing Home</a>, an urban agriculture business in Englewood. Many of these are considered fringe stores.</p><table style="width: 435px;" width="435" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td style="width: 75px; height: 13px;"><p>1</p></td><td style="width: 194px; height: 13px;"><p>2001 EXPRESS MINI MART INC</p></td><td style="width: 166px; height: 13px;"><p>5501 S Ashland Ave</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>2</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>Busy Bee Supermarket</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>5659 S Ashland Ave</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>3</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>CHEBLI FOOD STORE</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>5536 S Ashland Ave</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>4</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>City Food --CLOSED CORNER STORE</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>6059 S Wolcott Ave</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>5</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>M &amp; M DISCOUNT, INC.</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>1607 W 59th St</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>6</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>S &amp; M Food Market Inc</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>5600 S Wood St</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>7</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>Wood Street Farm Stand</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>5814 S Wood St</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>8</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>ASM GAS</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>1952 W 55th St</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>9</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>Citgo</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>5901 S Ashland Ave</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>10</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>CVS 5989</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>1620 W 59th St</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>11</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>Family Dollar 7057</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>1615 W 59th St</p></td></tr><tr><td style="height: 13px;"><p>12</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>R H A FOOD &amp; LIQUOR INC</p></td><td style="height: 13px;"><p>5515 S Damen Ave</p></td></tr></tbody></table><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 24 Oct 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/report-fewer-chicagoans-living-food-deserts-93338 With grocery bus, West Siders jump on health bandwagon http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-06-15/grocery-bus-west-siders-jump-health-bandwagon-87887 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-June/2011-06-15/P1010913.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit1.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>There’s a novel solution bringing relief to food deserts on Chicago’s West Side.</p><p>Sparing the expense of building a bricks and mortar grocery, a group has transformed a decommissioned CTA bus into a mobile, one-aisle produce mart. <a href="http://freshmoves.org/">Fresh Moves Mobile Market</a> carries a mix of conventional and organic fruits and vegetables to parts of Chicago that lack grocery stores and other viable options for healthy eating.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/Edit2.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>We caught up with the bus at the first of its Wednesday stops, in front of the Lawndale Christian Health Center on West Ogden Avenue.</p><p>Right now, Fresh Moves is in service two days a week, rotating between locations in North Lawndale and Austin. The climate-controlled bus will allow them to operate year-round, and Sheelah Muhammad, Fresh Move’s board secretary, says they hope to expand to six days a week. “We want to be like the ice cream truck,” Muhammad says. “You hear the bell and everyone comes running.”</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit3.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>The project’s senior manager, Dara Cooper, 33, says Fresh Moves uses <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/">standards set by the Environmental Work Group</a> to determine which fruits and vegetables they should carry as organic. “All of the fruits and vegetables that are heavily sprayed with pesticides - kale, collards, cherries, nectarines - we try to buy organic,” Cooper says. “Oranges, bananas, those kinds of things we can buy conventional.”</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit4.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit5.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>Fresh Moves hopes to address a critical problem facing neighborhoods across Chicago.</p><p>A <a href="http://www.marigallagher.com/site_media/dynamic/project_files/Chicago_Food_Desert_Report.pdf">2006 study</a> found that African-Americans in Chicago had the fewest options when it came to grocery shopping, and that black neighborhoods like North Lawndale were among the most cut off from fresh produce. Mari Gallagher, the study’s author, found that in a typical African-American block, “the nearest grocery store is roughly twice as distant as the nearest fast food restaurant.” The impact, Gallagher writes, is severe: “Communities that have no or distant grocery stores…will likely have increased premature death and chronic health conditions.”</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit6.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>Fresh Moves must keep prices competitive if they want to be a viable option for people in the low-income neighborhoods that most need their help. Theodore Thompson, 36, had just finished his morning run when he stepped onto the bus looking for something “nice and juicy” to help him rehydrate. Thompson lives in Lawndale and runs an afterschool program at nearby Lawndale Community Church. He says he found the prices on the bus to be very reasonable, “They actually beat the prices in some of the stores that I shop in,” he says, citing Sam’s Club, Food For Less and Jewel as places where he would normally go. “I’m looking at the mangoes. In the store you might have to pay $1.50 [per mango]. Here, it’s one dollar for one mango!</p><p><img alt="Thompson left with mangoes, plums, and avocados. " src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit7.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p><img alt="A Fresh Moves customer weighs her options, and her selection. " src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit8.jpg" title="" height="667" width="500"></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit9.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>Sales associate Jessica White weighs oranges at the register. In addition to cash and debit cards, Fresh Moves was recently approved to accept the Illinois LINK card, which allows food stamp recipients to pay for purchases electronically.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit10.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>Sales associate Feguier Epps, 33, helps customer Caritina Almanza, 24, with her purchase. Almanza, who lives on the South Side in Chicago’s West Lawn neighborhood, is one of several health center employees who shop on the bus. She is also a social worker who works with mothers and infants who has been recommending the bus to her clients. “I actually told one of my clients about it yesterday; She got excited,” Almanza says. “Having little ones, she’s trying to teach her baby to eat well.”</p><p><img alt="Almanza left with pineapple, broccoli, sweet potatoes and other goodies. " src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edi11.jpg" title="" height="667" width="500"></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit12.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>Marcella Fermoso, 48, lives in Oak Park, IL and works at the Lawndale Christian Health Center in the case management department. She prefers to buy organic, but finds stores like Whole Foods too expensive. “I’m coming back for sure,” she says.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit13.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>You can catch the bus Wednesdays and Thursdays for now. Click <a href="http://freshmoves.org/schedule/">here</a> for the full schedule.</p></p> Wed, 15 Jun 2011 16:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-06-15/grocery-bus-west-siders-jump-health-bandwagon-87887