Chicago’s Democratic mayor wants to create city grocery stores to promote “equitable” access to food after half of the city’s Walmart and Whole Foods stores closed.
Mayor Brandon Johnson announced a partnership with the Economic Security Project to open community grocery stores in Chicago to combat many of the city’s so-called “food deserts.”
Johnson’s new measures are intended to help “redress past harms that have led to targeted disinvestment and exclusion and lack of access to food” in historically underserved communities.
The liberal mayor said, “All Chicagoans deserve to live near convenient, affordable and healthy grocery stores.”
Mayor Brandon Johnson announced a partnership with the Economic Security Project to open community grocery stores in Chicago. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 63.5 percent of residents in West Englewood and 52 percent of residents in East Garfield Park live more than a half-mile from the nearest grocery store
“We know that access to grocery stores is already a challenge for many residents, particularly on the South and West Sides.”
“My administration is committed to advancing innovative, whole-of-government approaches to addressing these inequalities.”
“I’m proud to work with partners to take this step and imagine what a community grocery store in Chicago could look like.”
The city has not provided a timeline for implementing the initiative — and the grants that will help pay for the investment could come from state and federal tax dollars, not just local taxes, CBS reports.
Reaction to the plan was mixed.
One person wrote on social media: “Let’s see…large, successful retailers and grocery store operators have pulled out of certain zip codes due to chronic crime, but the city of Chicago will set up and manage taxpayer-subsidized stores. ‘What could possibly go wrong?’
Another added: “People need to learn not to steal and grocery stores don’t need to close.”
And a third said: “Residents need to respect the community’s businesses if they want to use their services.”
“With the city facing a $538 million budget deficit, operating grocery stores with taxpayer dollars only in some neighborhoods is untenable and patently privileged.” Work to address the causes of store closures.”
Others accused Johnson’s idea of being related to communism.
In April of this year, Walmart announced that it was closing four major stores across Chicago because they simply weren’t profitable enough
Another critic said: “If you want businesses to populate places like this, maybe you should crack down on crime – especially shoplifting.”
“It’s difficult for stores to stay open when your inventory is disappearing out the door with shoplifters.”
And another person on social media said, “I don’t think the city of Chicago could operate an ice cream stand in the summer, let alone a grocery store.”
In April of this year, Walmart announced that it was closing four major stores across Chicago because they simply weren’t profitable enough.
This represented half of all stores in the Chicago area.
They said: “The simplest explanation is that our Chicago stores as a whole have not been profitable since we opened the first one almost 17 years ago – these stores lose tens of millions of dollars each year, and their annual losses have increased in the last few years alone almost doubled in five years.” years.
“The remaining four stores in Chicago continue to face the same business difficulties, but we believe this decision gives us the best chance to keep them open and serving the community.”
Last November, Whole Foods closed in Englewood, depriving the neighborhood of fresh food and leaving its parking lot empty for nearly a year
Last November, Whole Foods closed in Englewood, depriving the neighborhood of fresh food and leaving its parking lot empty for nearly a year.
The closures were announced just days after Chicago’s newly elected liberal Mayor Brandon Johnson blamed companies that don’t pay taxes for the city’s poverty and crime rates.
While Walmart did not identify in its statement the exact causes of the continued losses at its Chicago stores over the years, some on social media were quick to point out the area’s crime rates.
According to the Chicago Police Department, thefts increased 25 percent in 2023 compared to 2022, while robberies increased 11 percent.
In 2022, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon warned that thefts at stores across the country could impact stores and lead to further closures.
Despite the previous warnings, the company called the decision difficult.
“The decision to close a business is never easy.” The impact is bigger than just closing a building. “It affects people — people who work, shop and live in communities near our stores — and we never take that lightly,” Walmart said.
Walmart officials also cited “business difficulties” in their statement to the remaining four Chicago stores.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 63.5 percent of West Englewood residents and 52 percent of East Garfield Park residents live more than a half-mile from the nearest grocery store.
Ameya Pawar, senior advisor at the Economic Security Project, said: “The city of Chicago is reimagining the role government can play in our lives by exploring a public grocery option through a community grocery store and market.”
“Not unlike how a library or the postal service operates, a public option provides communities with economic choice and power.”
“A city-owned grocery store on the south or west side of Chicago would be a viable way to restore access to healthy food in areas that have suffered from historic and systemic disinvestment.”