WBEZ | food deserts http://www.wbez.org/tags/food-deserts Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Dining from the dollar store http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/dining-dollar-store-112780 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/dollar salmon.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>Last summer, while researching a story on the changing landscape of Chicago food shopping, I was surprised to learn that dollar stores were becoming a form of a grocery store for many low-income neighborhoods.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>I imagined peopled doomed to aisles full of highly processed, low-quality junk food-- of dubious origin.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>As one colleague said to me, &ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t even trust pet food from a dollar store.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>So I was pretty skeptical when a natural foods company urged me to check out its line of vegetarian foods that recently arrived in thousands of Dollar Tree stores across the nation. Vegetarian foods at a dollar store? What?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>I decided to conduct a taste test.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>When I stopped in at a couple of these stores (one in Lakeview and another in Belmont Cragin) I found plenty of the usual &nbsp;food suspects--chips, ramen, and chicken bologna. But I also discovered vegetarian and vegan fare, ribeye steaks, sustainable and wild seafood, Chinese dumplings, Jamaican meat pies, bags of frozen vegetables, boxes of eclairs and Indian pastries.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>All for $1 each. How could this be?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Randy Guiler, vice president of Investor Relations at Dollar Tree, said they&rsquo;ve long carried ethnic items, but their selection has continued to expand, especially as more stores add frozen food sections.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;We are always adding new items. Some are &lsquo;tests,&rsquo; some are special buys and others are replacements,&rdquo; he wrote to WBEZ. &ldquo;Our expansion into [new categories] comes along as products that used to be outside of our price point become available.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>As dollar stores have spread into more American communities--there are now about 25,000 across the country and about 20 percent of their customers make more than $70,000--their offerings reflect the demand for natural, sustainable and boldly flavored foods.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>According to Nielsen figures, the dollar store category (which also includes Dollar General and Family Dollar) accounted for about 35 percent of the retail food store expansion between 2007 and 2013. Although expansion has slowed since, the category&rsquo;s growth is expected to continue to outpace conventional grocery stores&rsquo;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Today, Guiler says that about 70 percent --and counting--of the company&rsquo;s stores feature frozen food sections.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>That&rsquo;s where I found most of the following products--each for only a dollar. But are they any good? Here are some mini-reviews from our discriminating tasting panels: my family, my colleagues and me.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Note: Notable ingredients are listed in these evaluations, not as a sign that they are dangerous but because some consumers want to be aware of them.&nbsp;</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Ribeye Steak</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-ribeye.jpg" /></p><div>How can you sell a ribeye (traditionally one of the most expensive cuts) steak for just a dollar? Well, you can cut it extremely thin and pump it full of salt water, which is the case here. One taster called it rubbery, but another thought it tasted surprisingly beefy for a dollar. After cooking, the 3.5 oz steak shrinks considerably, leaving enough for a small dinner portion of meat or a layer of a steak sandwich. &nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B-</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Stampede</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 3.5 ounces</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Bromelain and 30 percent sodium solution. Hydrolyzed corn and soy protein.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Wild Salmon</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-salmon.jpg" /></p><div>Our tasters generally liked this skin-on fillet, especially after it was broiled and served with a butter lemon sauce. One commenter noted its pale color and thought it was a little dry.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Ocean Market</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 4 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: China</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Wild salmon and tripolyphosphate to retain moisture.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Veggie Burgers</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-veggie-burgers.jpg" /></p><div>Tasters overwhelmingly praised these boldly spiced patties for their recognizable bits of vegetable and &ldquo;bold&rdquo; South Asian spicing--although one person called them &ldquo;too spicy.&rdquo; Two compared them favorably to Trader Joe&rsquo;s masala veggie burgers. Others didn&rsquo;t like the soft texture, abundance of potato and oiliness.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Chef Ernesto</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: Two patties, 5.6 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: India</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: All vegetables, spices, and vegetable oil.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Vegetable Samosas</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-samosa.jpg" /></p><div>These baked veggie dumplings were tasty and boldly spiced with wrappers that crisped nicely in the toaster oven. Although they cried out for traditional sweet and spicy dipping sauces,</div><div>most of the tasters gave them an excellent rating. One felt they had a little</div><div>too much potato and another thought they were a little too bready.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Chef Ernesto</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 8 samosas 6 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: India</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Just potatoes, other vegetables, spices and a wrapper.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Crispy Green Bean Fries</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-beans.jpg" /></p><div>We had a hard time getting these beans to crisp up in the toaster oven and tasters noted that failing. &nbsp;But they also complained about a lack of good bean flavor. One called it an insult to vegetables. But another said she could see them tasting better with a dipping sauce.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: D</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Snapps</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 6 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Mostly just beans, flour, corn starch and soybean oil.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Clam Strips</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-clam-strip.jpg" /></p><div>These clam strips came out crispy, chewy and sweet from the toaster oven, pleasing tasters who likened them to the Howard Johnson clam strips of their youth-- but meatier. We also liked</div><div>that, at least according to labeling, they&rsquo;re wild caught and hand-shucked from sustainable fisheries.</div><div>The portion is large enough for a modest snack or a crunchy topping for a salad.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: A-</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: LaMonica</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 4 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is the second to last ingredient.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Lobster Sliders</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-lobster.jpg" /></p><div>The thrill of seeing lobster at a dollar store faded when we tasted these plump, overly sweet and bready patties. They recalled crab cakes but sweeter and breadier--but, of course, much cheaper.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: D</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Pride &amp; Joy</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 3.5 ounces</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: US</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Too many to name but lobster meat is the first and bread is the second along with lots of spices, trans fat and different sweeteners.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Pork and Vegetable Potstickers</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-potsticker.jpg" /></p><div>We steamed some and pan-fried others and all the tasters agreed that the flavorful filling and thin,&nbsp;elastic wrappers were some of the best we&rsquo;ve tried among packaged dumplings.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: A</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Tasty Select</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 10 dumplings, 7 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Pretty much just meat, vegetables and flour wrappers but also some monosodium glutamate.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>BBQ Pork Steamed Bun</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-pork-bun.jpg" /></p><div>All of the tasters who tried this were experienced Chinese pork bun eaters and they called this &ldquo;one of the best they&rsquo;d ever eaten.&rdquo; It features a moist, puffy and pliant bun along with a generous portion of some of the most delicious and porky filling we&rsquo;ve tasted. One note is that most steamed pork buns (or char siu bao) at Chinese bakeries cost less than $1. So even though it&rsquo;s no big bargain, it&rsquo;s</div><div>a high-quality bao.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: A-</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Tasty Select</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 5 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Artificial food coloring.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Salad shrimp</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-shrimp.jpg" /></p><div>Tasters loved how quickly these pre-cooked, wild shrimp can go from freezer to salad (two minutes). Inside a lemony shrimp salad, these nickel-sized nubbins are fine. But alone, they&rsquo;re a little mushy and watery tasting. In the wake of recent shrimp labor investigations, some tasters also worried how the low price connects with the ethics of their production chain. &nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Tastee Choice</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 3.5 ounces</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: India</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Pink Salmon in a packet</strong></span></div><div>This single serving packet made for a quick and tasty (if not very pink) salmon salad on the go. The broth keeps it very moist and the flavor is fine.&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Sunny Sea&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 3 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: China</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Just salmon, water, and vegetable broth. Also contains soy.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Jamaican Style Chicken Patties</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-jamaican-pattie.jpg" /></p><div>The package directions recommend microwaving this spicy meat pie in its vented wrapper, and tasters were amazed at how flaky and crisp the crust remained. They also loved the &ldquo;curry like&rdquo; chicken filling that made for a &ldquo;tasty office lunch.&rdquo;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: A-</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Golden Krust</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 1 pattie 5 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: US</div><div><strong>Other ingredients</strong>: Textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, beef suet, dough conditioner.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Bone-in Pork Loin Chops</strong></span></div><div>This ultra-thin pork chop with a thin slice of bone carried decent flavor and moisture, probably owing to the generous (up to 12 percent) sodium solution it&rsquo;s treated with,</div><div>&nbsp;along with meat tenderizers and</div><div>seasonings. Still our tasters thought it &ldquo;wasn&rsquo;t bad for $1.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B-</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: None</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 4 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Dextrose, hydrolyzed soy protein and bromelain which is a protein found in pineapples used as a meat tenderizer. &nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Iced Eclairs</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-eclairs.jpg" /></p><div>Although no one will mistake them for fine French pastries, these were &ldquo;tasty&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>little desserts with &ldquo;delicious&rdquo; custard&rdquo; and &ldquo;decent&rdquo; chocolate icing. They also liked the size, saying that it was &ldquo;great way to limit sweets if you eat just one.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Dolce Toscano</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 6 mini custard-filled eclairs</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Partially hydrogenated oil, artificial colors, carrageenan and artificial flavors.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Cream Puffs</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-cream-puff.jpg" /></p><div>Tasters called the pastry shells on these puffs &ldquo;stale&rdquo; and &ldquo;chewy,&rdquo; but they were thrilled by the creamy vanilla custard inside and one said, &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t stop eating them.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Dolce Toscano</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 8 pack, 3 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: High fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fats) are the 5th and 6th ingredients. Plus soy protein concentrate, carrageenan and multiple artificial colors.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>*Each time meat was part of a product at least one taster noted that the animal was probably factory farmed--raised indoors, fed antibiotics and given growth promoters where legal. The labels don&rsquo;t claim otherwise.&nbsp;</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng" target="_blank">Chewing The Fat</a> podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at <a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org?subject=Dollar%20store%20food">meng@wbez.org</a>.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 17:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/dining-dollar-store-112780 Chicago's urban farms have yet to harvest sustainable jobs, better health http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-urban-farms-have-yet-harvest-sustainable-jobs-better-health-110709 <p><p>On a recent hot summer day on the city&rsquo;s South Side a group of farmers and reporters gathered to tour a new two-acre farm enjoying its first harvest in the shadow of the old Robert Taylor Homes.</p><p>Safia Rashid is growing a diverse crop of kale, chard, tomatoes, onion, zucchini and several peppers in hopes of selling the produce to the local Women Infant and Children feeding program.</p><p>She&#39;s one of the new agriculture entrepreneurs benefiting from a $750 thousand, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It&rsquo;s aimed at putting graduates of The Botanic Garden&#39;s Windy City Harvest training program on track to start their own small farming businesses. &nbsp;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s urban farming movement has always held out the promise of sustainable employment. But more than a decade after it first took root, why aren&rsquo;t there more well-paying jobs? &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Thats not realistic,&rdquo; says Angela Mason the director of Botanic&rsquo;s Windy City Harvest, which trains ex-offenders in agricultural skills as a path toward employment. &ldquo;Our intention in launching the incubator program, and what most family farms do now, is [provide] supplemental income. It&rsquo;s not their only income. A lot of people romanticize farming but that&rsquo;s very challenging in this day and age. We don&rsquo;t support local food in a way that makes it economically viable for a person to go out and only farm for a living.&rdquo;</p><p>The fact is, most of these programs can&rsquo;t survive without outside funding.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s so much more you need to do than put fresh produce in a grocery store,&rdquo; Mason says. &ldquo;To get people interested in even buying the produce, you need to get people excited about it and learning how to prepare food with it. There are &nbsp;a lot of people who&rsquo;ve never seen kale grow or seen Swiss chard grow and don&rsquo;t know what to do with it.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Indeed, lack of demand and knowledge about what to do with the produce still hampers sales in these communities. In the produce business margins are slim and product that doesn&rsquo;t move can go bad very quickly. Even one of the nation&rsquo;s biggest retailers has run into snags.</p><p>At a White House meeting in 2011, Walgreens promised to build 50 &ldquo;food oasis&rdquo; stores in Chicago by summer 2013. &nbsp;By July 2014, the retailer had only installed fresh produce in 26 local food desert stores, according to Crain&#39;s Chicago. In the last month, however, the store finally met its original goal, according to a Walgreens spokesman.</p><p>Smaller projects have also run into problems. The much praised Farmers Best Market in Bronzeville opened in 2008 but was closed within a year. The Englewood Farmers Market on 63rd called it quits after a few tough seasons. And, last summer, the Fresh Moves buses that brought fresh produce markets to the people <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-whole-foods-may-struggle-find-customers-englewood-108608">turned off their engines indefinitely</a>.</p><p>So why has it been so hard to successfully sell produce in Chicago&rsquo;s food deserts? Mari Gallagher is a researcher who specializes in food access.</p><p>&ldquo;You can have a great idea and you can put your whole heart into it, but you still have to figure out how to make it viable,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So there are lots of different reasons why some of these programs fail. But unfortunately, because people feel so closely tied to these outcomes, it&rsquo;s hard to get at the truth [to analyze what lessons can be learned].&rdquo;</p><p>Although they rarely speak about it on the record, several urban ag experts across the city confided that the demand for full-priced, high quality produce isn&rsquo;t strong enough to support the businesses that sell it. As Whole Foods prepares to open its Englewood store in 2016, it&rsquo;s counting on building that demand. But today, observers say, it&rsquo;s just not there.</p><p>So does that mean inner city farmers markets, mobile produce programs and viable urban farming jobs are doomed for now?</p><p>&ldquo;When we talk about [greening] the food desert we&rsquo;re really trying to keep costs down and quality high and that&rsquo;s tricky,&rdquo; Gallagher says. &ldquo;But I wouldn&rsquo;t write off any of these options. I would say that the market conditions need to be right and the operators need to be very, very good on a number of fronts to pull it off successfully.&rdquo;</p><p>One of the only urban farmers who seems to have figured it out, is the the tall, lanky and perpetually muddy Ken Dunn. The founder of the Resource Center and City Farm has practiced urban ag in Chicago for more than 40 years. The philosophy PhD also operates what he says are four profitable farms in Englewood.</p><p>&ldquo;You have to start with what has always been the food cycle,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We have a process where food scraps go back to the production of the next crop. We&rsquo;ve tapped into selling two-thirds of our crop to high-end restaurants, picking up the food scraps from all of their product and turning them into compost to bring back to the field.&rdquo;</p><p>Got that? First Dunn sells his vegetables to fancy restaurants. Then the restaurants give him back food scraps which are used to make compost. This ultra-rich growing medium, he says, produces 10 easy crops a year, and food so tasty that restaurants are happy to pay his high prices. And these premium prices, Dunn says, make it possible to pay a living wage, and sell cheaper veggies from kiosks on the farm.</p><p>Dunn believes this model could expand up to three times and still not saturate the high end restaurant market. But he hopes that by the time we reach that saturation, there will be other funding models in place.</p><p>His dream is for municipalities to recognizes the larger public benefits of urban ag on crime, health and education and to fund them as part of local budgets. These less tangible benefits are part of the reason Safia Rashid is out working on her quarter-acre plot nearly every day. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When the children are eating properly, guess what happens?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;The violence goes down. So if we continue to feed them whole foods without the pesticides and GMOs, we will continue to see real change in our community. So it&rsquo;s just really that simple.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DJ%20Cavem.jpeg" style="float: left; width: 161px; height: 206px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="DJ Cavem travels the country preaching the gospel of organic urban farming to inner city youth. (Photo Courtesy of DJ Cavem)" />While Dunn sells mostly to restaurants and Rashid hopes to sell to WIC, DJ Cavem has a different plan. &nbsp;He wants to grow food<em> in</em> the community<em> for</em> the community. He&rsquo;s a rapper, educator, midwife and urban farm advocate based in Denver. He stopped in Chicago earlier this year to spread his gospel of home grown organic produce for all.</p><p>&ldquo;The same way gangsta rap promotes drug dealing, I am an environmental hip hop artist, eco hip hop artist who promotes gardening,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I have been teaching for 11 years now. I teach young people how to grow food, how to prepare the food, how to create a green job. I&rsquo;m setting up gardens in inner city communities and showing people how to keep the nutrition in their food.&rdquo;</p><p>He says that urban youth have largely lost touch with their grandparents&#39; food and growing skills. Still, he knows that history can cut both ways.</p><p>&ldquo;Because of slavery and Jim Crow, a lot of inner city African Americans do not want to talk to young people about growing food,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;They really think that &nbsp;going to the grocery store is the best for them. And they felt that they were forced to have to do this work. So there is that neglect of young people having access to the inter-generational dialogue that needs to happen around food preparation.&rdquo;</p><p>DJ Cavem&rsquo;s goals may be lofty, but he claims his message can reach these young people. Last year he got a whole summer camp of urban youths to remix the popular ode to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YLy4j8EZIk">&ldquo;Hot Cheetos and Takis.&quot;</a> They dubbed their version <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO3zE2XqEUo">&ldquo;Brown Rice and Broccoli.&rdquo;</a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/MO3zE2XqEUo?rel=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;You can watch the video on YouTube and Tweet it and let your friends know that that&rsquo;s what young people really want: Healthy food, foods that are fresher than the shoes on their feet.&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Between Dunn&rsquo;s decades of urban ag experience and DJ Cavem&rsquo;s youth-friendly message, there may come a time when produce from urban farms will not only nourish local residents but also grow their bank accounts.</p><p>Beginner farmer Rashid certainly hopes so. Despite her optimism for her newfound occupation, she knows she&rsquo;s got a tough row to hoe.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a lot to cover,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Especially in my case since I don&rsquo;t have a business partner. It&rsquo;s a lot to do alone. But I know that things are gonna change.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p><em>WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore contributed to this story. </em></p><iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true"></iframe></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-urban-farms-have-yet-harvest-sustainable-jobs-better-health-110709 Advocates say Whole Foods may struggle to find customers in Englewood http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-whole-foods-may-struggle-find-customers-englewood-108608 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Fresh Moves 1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>(Updated at 3 p.m. with additional comment from Fresh Moves co-founder Steven Casey.)</em></p><p>While many city officials trumpeted the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/high-end-grocer-coming-south-side-food-desert-108600">news</a> of a Whole Foods coming to Englewood, some who&rsquo;ve worked for years to sell fresh produce in the area advise cautious optimism and lots of education.</p><p>They also question the sustainability of a Whole Foods in Englewood barely a week after <a href="http://www.freshmoves.org/">Fresh Moves</a>, a widely touted non-profit that sold produce in the area from converted CTA buses, announced it was shutting down its mobile operations due to lack of funds.</p><p>Until last month, Julian Champion served as executive director of Fresh Moves. He commends Whole Foods&rsquo; commitment to the impoverished neighborhood but warns that they&rsquo;ll need to lay a lot of groundwork before opening in 2016.</p><p>&ldquo;Whole Foods will have to approach this as a social mission unlike many of the other very profitable supermarkets,&rdquo; Champion said. &ldquo;If the mentality going in is that &lsquo;we hope to be profitable but this is a mission&rsquo; then I think they will be able to manage expectations and enjoy some peace. But they also have to be committed to customer creation.&rdquo;</p><p>Creating customers, let alone finding them, proved to be a challenge for Fresh Moves despite a unique model that addressed accessibility issues by taking the fresh produce directly to the customer. Champion said the Fresh Moves mobile produce buses were losing about $300 a day, which created an unsustainable drag on their bottom line. He says that pressure will be even greater for a company like Whole Foods. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;From my experience there are people who will appreciate what Whole Food does and brings,&rdquo; Champion said, &ldquo;but it&rsquo;s not going to be a critical mass, and so they will have to be committed to creating these people who understand what they are doing and appreciate the presence of the store.&rdquo;</p><p>Last week, in a newsletter to supporters announcing the shutdown of mobile operations, Fresh Moves co-founder Steven Casey said the organization was &ldquo;facing the headwinds of a dynamic environment of rising costs, legislative uncertainty and challenging resource allocations on a local, state and federal levels.&rdquo;</p><p>Casey says that the Board hopes to find new partners and relaunch in the future but there is no firm date on when that might happen. He confirmed that Fresh Moves drivers have been laid off and the converted buses are lying dormant.&nbsp;</p><p>Which raises the question: if a non-profit offering affordable non-organic produce can&rsquo;t make it in Englewood, what chance does Whole Foods&rsquo; higher-priced organic offerings stand?</p><p>&ldquo;Their price point for organic and locally grown quality fruits and vegetables can be pricey but they will have to find a way to subsidize that so that it will be accessible to the residents of the community,&rdquo; Champion said.</p><p>Sonya Harper is the outreach manager at Growing Home a non-profit that runs organic urban farms &nbsp;including two in Englewood. There, it is has operated a farm stand for at least three years, selling its produce for half of what it charges at Lincoln Park&rsquo;s Green City Market, Harper says. But the stand has yet to turn a profit.</p><p>&ldquo;We still need more education around healthy eating and organic produce and cooking,&quot; Harper said. &quot;We are finding that a lot of folks are not cooking and so they don&#39;t really know what to do with fresh fruits and vegetables, even though we are giving them away almost free in some instances. They just aren&#39;t cooking them and eating them as much as we&#39;d hope.&quot;</p><p>That said, Harper noted that the farm stand is making progress. After first year sales of less than $900 in 2011, that increased twofold the following year and sales are now set to triple in 2013.</p><p>What led to the bump in sales?</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had a tremendous increase in canvassing the neighborhood &nbsp;and speaking to neighbors one- on-one,&rdquo; she said &ldquo;We wanted people to see that we were really involved in the community not just here to sell them food from the farm stand.&rdquo;</p><p>She advises Whole Foods to do the same, featuring the same kinds of workshops, partnerships and classes they&rsquo;ve made a part of their other stores.</p><p>But pricing could still be a challenge for a company that wants to turn a profit.</p><p>&ldquo;Our sales at the Englewood Farm Stand are more of a community service,&rdquo; Harper notes. &ldquo;We are not selling them at market value or Whole Foods prices. We are selling them at Growing-Home-Farm-Stand-we-really-want-you-to get-fresh-vegetables-and-afford-them-prices.&rdquo;</p><p>Yesterday Whole Foods executive Michael Barshaw told WBEZ that the company wants to work with the <a href="http://www.ccc.edu/colleges/kennedy/departments/Pages/Washburne-Culinary-Institute.aspx">Washburne Culinary Institute</a> at nearby Kennedy King College.</p><p>&ldquo;We hope that Whole Foods would offer educational classes on healthy eating, nutrition and cooking,&rdquo; Barshaw said.</p><p>For Mari Gallagher a researcher and consultant who has done groundbreaking research on food deserts, the store may not solve all of the neighborhoods problems but can be a positive start.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t choose healthy food if you don&rsquo;t have access to begin with,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;What&rsquo;s most exciting is that retail attracts retail and like attracts like. So Whole Foods could become a game-changer and anchor to revitalize the commercial district. But this all depends on how the community builds on it.&rdquo;</p><p>Connie Spreen heads Experimental Station in Chicago&rsquo;s Woodlawn neighborhood, which pioneered the double value food stamp program at its 61st Street Farmers Market. She and her colleagues have worked for the last few years to make sustainable produce affordable to low-income Chicagoans through the double value program but on a very small scale.</p><p>&ldquo;We have learned over the six years of operating our market that affordability of the healthy foods sold at the Market is a major concern for low-income customers. Obviously so. A Whole Foods in Englewood will not only have to accept LINK benefits, but will also have to ensure that the prices of the products they offer reflect the ability of the local community to pay for them.&rdquo;</p><p>Spreen says she&rsquo;s intrigued but also has a lot of questions about how they will address the affordability issue.</p><p>&ldquo;Will that mean that they will offer lower-quality produce to keep the prices low?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;Or will that mean that they will offer high-quality products at a lower price, but perhaps offset lesser profits gained at the Englewood location with higher profits from other Chicago stores?&rdquo;</p><p>For Gallagher, creating a model for selling healthy food to the nation&rsquo;s highest risk populations is one of the biggest potential benefits of the Whole Foods project.</p><p>&ldquo;We need to learn what does and doesn&rsquo;t work,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;and I am hopeful that Whole Foods will let this be a bit of a learning lab in helping people crossover to those healthy foods and making it more affordable to families. They have to protect their business concerns so I don&rsquo;t expect them to give all their numbers away but my hope is that they will.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a></em></p></p> Wed, 04 Sep 2013 13:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-whole-foods-may-struggle-find-customers-englewood-108608 From gang life to green shoots http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/gang-life-green-shoots-107391 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Windy-City-Harvest/177708402262849?fref=ts" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/darius%20with%20easter%20egg%20radishes%20courtesy%20chicago%20botanic%20garden.jpg" style="height: 458px; width: 610px;" title="Darius Jones, 21, with easter egg radishes. Raised in gritty West Garfield Park, Jones struggled to turn his life around, but recently launched his own urban agriculture business. (Chicago Botanic Garden)" /></a></div><p>Darius Jones grew up slinging drugs in West Garfield Park, a few blocks and seemingly a lifetime away from the garden beds he now tends with the support of the United States Department of Agriculture.</p><p>On May 1, the 21-year-old launched <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Urban-Aggies/199086706882220?fref=ts" target="_blank">Urban Aggies</a>, an incubator for urban agriculture enterprises that he hopes to parlay into a network of farms and small businesses. He is also part of a project administered by the Chicago Botanic Garden, and funded through a three-year USDA effort to rejuvenate food deserts on the city&rsquo;s West and South Sides.</p><p>But trading gang life for garden spades was no simple switch.</p><p>Jones first worked the soil behind bars at the <a href="http://www.cookcountysheriff.org/bootcamp/bootcamp_main.html" target="_blank">Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center</a>, or &ldquo;Boot Camp&rdquo; as it&rsquo;s known. He was arrested for aggravated carjacking at 17, when he was a junior at Crane High School. He waited 15 months in Cook County prison before pleading guilty to a lesser offense, which earned him four months in Boot Camp. In the compound&rsquo;s one-acre garden, he transplanted head lettuce, built raised beds and learned the basics of horticulture, landscaping and gardening.</p><p>After more than a year in a maximum security facility, Jones said he was just happy to be outside. He served his time and took a job at a compost operation right next door to Boot Camp.</p><p>But work is only eight hours each day. He quickly fell back in with his old crowd.</p><p>&ldquo;If I kept coming home to the same situation,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I would never change.&rdquo;</p><p>He signed up for the Chicago Botanic Garden&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.chicagobotanic.org/windycityharvest/" target="_blank">Windy City Harvest</a> program, a nine month training course in sustainable urban horticulture and agriculture, run through Richard J. Daley College. During the program he interned as a manager for the program&rsquo;s Pilsen market stand.</p><p>&ldquo;That started opening my eyes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;A little bit.&rdquo;</p><p>Jones surprised himself by blurting out solutions to garden problems that he didn&rsquo;t think he knew the answers to. But after work he returned to the same environment that landed many of his friends in jail or in the morgue.</p><p>It took a brush with violence for his new life to take root. Jones got caught up in a series of gang disputes that one night found him sobbing on the shore of Lake Michigan, remembering the people he&rsquo;d met in prison who were serving 60 year sentences.</p><p>&ldquo;I just started flashing back to all my cellmates who were never going home,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They traded all this for life in a box.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/darius-jones-2-610px.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 305px; float: left;" title="Darius Jones, at the garden plot he shares on the 200 block of N. Kenneth Ave. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />His life is different now. He lives with his girlfriend in Humboldt Park, and was recently promoted to sales coordinator at the farmers market.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all about who you come home to,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>On an 1,800-square-foot lot in West Garfield Park, his is one of three incubator farms for Windy City Harvest&rsquo;s urban agriculture initiative, which last month received $750,000 from USDA&rsquo;s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. He shares half of the growing space with a colleague who grows vegetables for her Smith Park food truck business. Five more beginning farmers on the South and West Sides will join the program over the next three years.</p><p>Urban Aggies&rsquo; first harvest will fill sampler boxes with winterbor kale, carrots, beets, swiss chard and turnips, but Jones said he hopes to expand into value added products like jams and pickles.</p><p>&ldquo;Doing this work gives me time to think,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very therapeutic.&rdquo;</p><p>He hopes to sell his produce to Inspiration Café, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/former-cop-starts-effort-feed-homeless-little-red-wagon-105219" target="_blank">a neighborhood restaurant that employs formerly incarcerated men and serves people struggling with homelessness and poverty</a>. He said&nbsp;<a href="http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/community/west-garfield-park" target="_blank">the far West Side is still gritty</a>, but Jones is heartened by the support he has received since he turned away from his past.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact that I completely changed my life around,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;is highly respected in the &rsquo;hood.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Several new farmers markets <a href="http://austintalks.org/2012/06/farmers-markets-kick-off-on-west-side/" target="_blank">have cropped up in Jones&#39; neighborhood</a> recently, a trend he said he would be proud to help continue.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 28 May 2013 13:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/gang-life-green-shoots-107391 Illinois Food Fund to help grocers expand in health-challenged communities http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-food-fund-help-grocers-expand-health-challenged-communities-104543 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/buzzfarmers_flickr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Loan applications are coming in for a pot of state money that would put grocery stores in underserved communities throughout Illinois.</p><p>Currently, the state of Illinois has $10 million for a Fresh Food Fund.<br /><br />The money is supposed to help full-service grocery stores expand or build in places like food deserts where healthy food is scarce.<br /><br />The loans are not meant for the Jewel-Osco and Dominick&#39;s of the grocer world but smaller or independent operations.</p><p>&quot;The intent behind the Fresh Food Fund has always been to make our neighborhoods healthier in a self-sustaining way that also promotes economic development,&quot; said State Sen. Jacqueline Y.&nbsp;Collins.&nbsp;&quot;While larger grocery stores are part of the solution, they aren&#39;t the answer for every neighborhood.&quot;</p><p>Collins said the Fresh Food Fund needs to include a variety of access points.</p><p>&quot;Including smaller stores that are owned by local residents and employ people in the community, re-invest locally and stay in the community over the long term,&quot; she said.&nbsp;</p><p>Trinita Logue is president of IFF, the community development financial institution administering the program.<br /><br />&quot;We feel that the projects we&rsquo;ll be financing will be in higher need, harder to reach areas, where the markets may not be as robust but there very clearly are needs,&quot; Logue said.</p><p>She said the first loan should be out early next year.</p><p>Logue said the pot of funds should swell to $30 million to invest throughout the state.</p><p>Money is being raised from banks and foundations. The Illinois Fresh Food Fund is modeled after similar efforts in Pennsylvania and New York.<br /><br />Grocers will also have to offer education to address healthy eating in the communities they serve.</p></p> Mon, 24 Dec 2012 12:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-food-fund-help-grocers-expand-health-challenged-communities-104543 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 Corner stores to become oases in food deserts? http://www.wbez.org/story/corner-stores-become-oases-food-deserts-96575 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-23/fruit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In food deserts, large grocery stores are scarce. But these same communities have&nbsp;plenty of corner stores. That’s usually seen as a problem because corner stores&nbsp;often stock more junk food than fresh produce. There are new public&nbsp;health programs underway in several Chicago neighborhoods and inner-ring&nbsp;suburbs. The idea is to turn corner stores into healthy assets.</p><p><img alt="New fresh produce at La Alegria, a corner store in Cicero, Ill. (WBEZ/Natalie Mo" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-23/fruit.jpg" style="margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: left; width: 350px; height: 350px; " title="New fresh produce at La Alegria, a corner store in Cicero, Ill. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)">Danny Block is a professor at Chicago State University. He researches food deserts, and he has a map that shows areas that have few grocery stores but lots of independent corner stores.</p><p>MOORE: How well have these&nbsp;corner stores been filling the gap?</p><p>BLOCK: Probably not very well.</p><p>Block says customers have a catalogue of complaints with corner stores: overpricing, too much snack food, and uncleanliness. There’s a local food justice movement that’s working on food access issues and it’s trying different strategies.</p><p>One tactic is to get chain grocers to open in food deserts. Another is to clear hurdles for urban agriculture. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s working on those two. &nbsp;But there’s another strategy: transforming corner stores from holes in the wall to healthy havens.</p><p>The Chicago and Cook County public health departments and private agencies are involved. Corner store owners are getting hundreds of dollars in seed money and refrigeration equipment.</p><p>Again, Danny Block:</p><p>BLOCK: I am all in favor of diversifying. I am not against bringing in the chain stores. The food desert issue is about community disinvestment in general. It’s about which communities have received retail investment and which communities haven’t. If you really want to revitalize a community, you just can’t do it with one store. You have to have a developed economy that gives people a variety of different choices.</p><p>Payless is a corner store near 69th and Ashland in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.&nbsp;It’s crammed with artificially flavored drinks, potato chips and junk food, but Payless is changing. It’s enrolled in the Healthy Places campaign, so now it’s got a display case that literally stands out like an oasis in a food desert.&nbsp;Fresh oranges, shiny apples, ripe bananas, plums and pears —&nbsp;all at discount prices.</p><p>A local community group called Inner City Muslim Action Network, or IMAN, is helping Payless with its fresh transition. Shamar Hemphill is with the group and shows me a refrigerator in the back that holds tomatoes, carrots and cabbage. Hemphill says each week community leaders&nbsp;check to ensure the produce is crisp.</p><p>HEMPHILL: It made sense around lifting and elevating the issue of food deserts. The corner store is really the probably most essential place in the most hard hit communities across the city of Chicago.</p><p>There’s a lot at stake in making store options healthier. Englewood residents have higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, and these convenience stores can’t help much. Hemphill says his community group wants more corner stores to participate – but it’s a paradigm shift.</p><p>HEMPHILL: It’s not as easy with store owners wanting to shift their store around with their bread and butter products. You know what I’m saying? To begin to put in products that they may make little profit at first.</p><p>I visited Payless two years ago — for some other reporting on food issues. Back then store owner Falah Farhoudeh said he couldn’t sell fresh food because he wasn’t sure people would buy it. He’s changed his tune.</p><p>FARHOUDEH: I do make money. Saturday and Sunday I sell 50 bags.</p><p>Mary Newsome is a long tim customer.&nbsp;She’s 84 years old, has trouble breathing and she’s prone to seizures. She’s long asked the owner to stock&nbsp;fruit.</p><p>NEWSOME: I asked since I’ve been coming here. I didn’t see any. My nurse wants me to have bananas. She want me to have&nbsp;apples, oranges.</p><p>Newsome lives just a block away from Payless, and that’s a notable detail.&nbsp;Experts say convenience is key when it comes to improving people’s access to healthy food.</p><p>These changes aren’t happening just in Chicago.&nbsp;Cook County and some non-profits are helping at some suburban stores, like Cicero’s La Alegria.&nbsp;But there’s one issue: money.&nbsp;La Alegria is out of kiwi on this weekday, but it’s still got tomatillos, lemons, and avocados.</p><p>Owner Gloria Valle shows me around. She says she's not worried about the grant running out. Valle says people are now hungry for these items and she’ll keep stocking her shelves with fresh fruit.</p></p> Thu, 23 Feb 2012 10:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/corner-stores-become-oases-food-deserts-96575 Grant aims to reduce racial health disparities among Chicagoans http://www.wbez.org/story/grant-aims-reduce-racial-health-disparities-among-chicagoans-94698 <p><p>The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a grant to improve access to healthy food for African American and Latino Chicagoans.</p><p>Those groups have higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And an $850,000 grant seeks to reduce health disparities. The money will be used for health literacy. Community health workers will use a curriculum to educate residents in food deserts – areas lacking fresh food options.</p><p>UIC's Sheila Castillo is working on the grant.</p><p>"What we also need to talk about is how do we get people to know what to do with the food once they get it? How can we help make a systems change so that we really are impacting and benefiting people across a wide range of the metropolitan area?" Castillo said.</p><p>Part of the discourse around food desert elimination is making sure there’s an educational component. If people have never had access to healthy food, they’re less likely to know how to prepare it.</p></p> Thu, 08 Dec 2011 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/grant-aims-reduce-racial-health-disparities-among-chicagoans-94698 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 Commissioner Choucair prescribes a new strategy for Chicago health http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/commissioner-choucair-prescribes-new-strategy-chicago-health-90914 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-23/CmsrChoucairHealth2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The lack of access to fresh food is especially critical in certain Chicago neighborhoods – mostly poor and black. Many U.S. cities reflect said racial and economic disparities in public health issues. But many of those gaps, including those seen in asthma or breast cancer mortality, appeared greater in Chicago than the rest of the country. In the present era of government belt-tightening, improving public health is hardly a cinch. Still, <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdph/auto_generated/cdph_leadership.html" target="_blank">Dr. Bechara Choucair</a> said he was glad Mayor Emanuel kept him on as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. A week out from releasing an ambitious new agenda, Dr. Choucair joined <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> to talk about Chicago's public health challanges.</p><p><em>Music Button: If These Trees Could Talk, "The Flames of Herostratus", from the CD Above The Earth Below The Sky, (self released)</em><br> <br> &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Aug 2011 14:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/commissioner-choucair-prescribes-new-strategy-chicago-health-90914