Chicago Mayor Wants Government-Owned Grocery Store

‘The City of Chicago is reimagining the role government can play in our lives,’ the mayor’s office said in a statement.
Chicago Mayor Wants Government-Owned Grocery Store
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson speaks to guests after taking the oath of office in Chicago on May 15, 2023. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Beth Brelje

As crime soars in large cities, businesses leave. At least six grocery stores have closed in the South and West sides of Chicago over the past two years, according to a statement from the city.

In response, Mayor Brandon Johnson this week announced a partnership with the Economic Security Project to “start on a pathway towards the opening of a municipally owned grocery store in Chicago,” the statement said.

The Economic Security Project is a national, left-leaning $8 million nonprofit that often advocates for giving low-income people a universal basic income. Economic Security Project will handle technical assistance by defining the pathway to the first municipally-owned grocery store in Chicago.

“This collaboration furthers the Johnson administration’s work towards repairing past harms that have contributed to purposeful disinvestment and exclusion and lack of food access in historically underserved communities,” the statement said. “Historic disinvestment has led to inequitable access to food retail across Chicago, and these existing inequities have been exacerbated.”

According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 64 percent of residents in West Englewood and 52 percent of residents in East Garfield Park live more than half a mile from their nearest grocery store, whereas in West Town, fewer than 1 percent of residents experience this barrier to food access, the statement said.

“The City of Chicago is reimagining the role government can play in our lives by exploring a public option for grocery stores via a municipally owned grocery store and market,” Ameya Pawar, senior adviser at Economic Security Project, said in the statement. “Not dissimilar from the way a library or the postal service operates, a public option offers economic choice and power to communities. A city-owned grocery store in 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.”

Crime Not Mentioned

The mayor’s statement does not mention crime, but Chicago news reports show stores have left the city due to crime.
ABC7 Chicago reported in June 2022 that an Aldi grocery store closed due to “repeated burglaries and declining sales,“ the company said at the time. ”Out of concern for our employees and customers, keeping this store open was no longer a sustainable option.”

A Save A Lot grocery store closed in Chicago in May after multiple break-ins.

But messaging from the mayor’s office focused on race-related inequities as the reason for fewer food shopping options, saying in its statement that a government-owned grocery store is among the “Johnson administration’s broader commitment to correcting systems and practices that have created these inequities.”

“Food access and security link directly to environmental and racial justice,” the statement said, noting that 37 of black residents and 29 percent of Hispanic residents face food insecurity, compared to 19 percent of residents overall.

A feasibility study will shape the Johnson administration’s emerging food retail strategy, which will receive input from experts, community leaders, and Chicago’s Food Equity Council.

The Illinois Grocery Initiative has committed $20 million for grants and technical assistance for grocery stores across the state, the statement said.

Chicago would be the first major city in the United States to implement a municipally-owned grocery store to address food inequity, according to the statement.

“All Chicagoans deserve to live near convenient, affordable, healthy grocery options. We know access to grocery stores is already a challenge for many residents, especially on the South and West sides,” Mr. Johnson said in the statement.

“A better, stronger, safer future is one where our youth and our communities have access to the tools and resources they need to thrive. My administration is committed to advancing innovative, whole-of-government approaches to address these inequities.”

Beth Brelje is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter who covers U.S. politics, state news, and national issues. Ms. Brelje previously worked in radio for 20 years and after moving to print, worked at Pocono Record and Reading Eagle. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]
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