Naperville Business Lawyer Discusses Chicago Area Food Deserts

food desert, Naperville business law attorneyAs the third-largest city in the country, Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. With 77 officially designated community areas and some 200 neighborhoods, many Chicagoans identify closely with their geographic roots and often pride themselves based on the neighborhood in which they reside. Unfortunately, however, a disturbingly large number of Chicago neighborhoods have very little access to healthy food, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and dairy products. These so-called “food deserts” are generally characterized by the absence or lack of sufficient grocery stores and supermarkets offering fresh produce and other healthy foods.

As a business law attorney, I understand the dilemma facing would-be developers and store owners as they consider opening full-service supermarkets in Chicago’s food deserts. On the one hand, underserved areas would seem to prime locations for doing business. On the other hand, recent spikes in violent crime throughout the city—particularly in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods—give many investors cause for serious concern.

Whole Foods Opens in Englewood

Just this morning, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut the ribbon at the grand opening celebration for a new Whole Foods Market in the neighborhood of Englewood, one of the area’s toughest neighborhoods, but not exactly a food desert. An Aldi discount grocery store has been operating for several years, just blocks from the new store at 63rd and Halsted. While bringing upscale food and fresh produce to a neighborhood plagued by poverty and violence is certainly a laudable goal, the mayor has not exactly delivered on his promises to address the food desert problem throughout the city.

Moving the Goal Line?

Critics accuse Emanuel of tinkering with the numbers to make it seem like progress is being made faster than is the reality. According to reports from 2011, when Emanuel took office, more than 600,000 Chicago residents lacked access to fresh produce. One month into his first term, the mayor declared the number to be 450,000, based on maps calculating the number of people who live further than a half-mile from a store of at least 2,500 square feet offering fresh fruits and vegetables.

In 2013, when the Emanuel administration announced great progress on the issue, the Chicago Tribune pushed officials to explain the calculations, and, again, they were different. This time around, the measure only included low-income residents who live further than one mile—as opposed to a half-mile—from a 10,000 square-foot store instead of 2,500. When done this way, the numbers showed that only about 100,000 Chicagoans were affected by the food desert problem. The lack of consistent measures makes it nearly impossible to understand the true extent of the food issue facing the city’s poorest residents.

Opening in Underserved Areas

If you are thinking about opening a business of any type, finding an underserved area can be a key to your success. There may, however, be reasons why the area is underserved and it is important to learn as much as you can before you make any big decisions. For assistance with your business plan, contact an experienced Naperville business law attorney for a confidential consultation. Call The Gierach Law Firm at 630-756-1160 today.



U.S. Commission on Civil Rights


Chicago Tribune