Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Policy Point Wednesday: Occupy the Food Desert

So much is happening in the food world, I had a really difficult time deciding what to write about today.  Between the Farm Bill , pizza, vegetables and Congress, midnight food sale spikes and food pantry cuts, German courts ruling against Nutella labels, and all kinds of other policy and food craziness, this small local news item might have escaped my notice.

Any article entitled "The Worst Food Desert in Chicago Strikes Back," however, reminds me of the reason I started this blog in the first place.  I hope to amplify their call to action here:
Occupy Altgeld needs help. Occupy Altgeld needs legal advice. Occupy Altgeld needs financial support. Occupy Altgeld needs an action plan to solidify their list of demands with acceptable solutions, and most of all, they need support from all communities in and around Chicago.

They plan to march through the holidays. You can help too. Talk to anyone you know who lives in the above areas, participate in the protest, contact Cheryl at PCR, 773.840.4618 (office) to find out how you can help.
What is this group protesting?  Their neighborhood grocer is 3 or 4 miles from any larger grocers, and serves a largely captive community.  A protester reported the following cost a total of $59.51: 1 roll of toilet paper, 1 gallon vitamin D milk, 1 jar salad dressing, a ham butt, 1 small pot roast.  I input the same groceries into (an upscale Chicago-area grocery delivery service that isn't available in Altgeld) and came up with a total almost twenty dollars less ($40.89.)   The group reports that this grocer does not honor WIC coupons; they believe this is because their prices are higher than the WIC reimbursement amount.  They have been unable to reach the store's management to discuss these issues or ask questions.

Why does this matter to me?  Where I grew up, in Southern Ohio, we had two locations of a major grocer within driving distance of our house.  The closer one was located in a poor neighborhood, and the slightly farther one was in an upscale, affluent area.  Guess which one had security guards and rotten produce?  Guess where things were ever-so-slightly cheaper?  This disparity persisted until a different chain moved into the poorer neighborhood and offered some healthy competition.  I didn't realize this was a national concern until I saw this portentous episode of the Cosby Show (streaming on Netflix and worth a watch.)

Special thanks to Grub Street Chicago and Chicagotalks for bringing this to my attention.

If you're able to help Occupy Altgeld, please post here and let me know!

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