NEW YORK - JANUARY 13: A grocer arranges mangoes in the produce section at Whole Foods January 13, 2005 in New York City. New eating guidelines issued by the U.S. government stress the need to eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains and to excercise between 30-90 minutes a day to promote good health. (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)
Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with the CEOs of six major grocery chains in Chicago on Wednesday to discuss eliminating food deserts in 6 different Chicago communities.
Executives from Walgreens, Walmart USA, Safeway (parent company of Dominick's), Roundy's (parent company of Mariano's Fresh Market in suburban Arlington Heights), Supervalu (parent company of Jewel-Osco and Cub Foods), and Aldi met with the mayor to discuss plans for expanding supermarkets into Chicago's urban communities which lack practical access to fresh foods. The six targeted food desert communities include North Lawndale, Douglas Englewood, Chatham, Roseland, and West Pullman.
A food desert is an "area in the United States with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly such an area composed of predominantly lower income neighborhoods and communities," as defined by the USDA in their 2009 report on "Access to Affordable and Nurtitious Foods." Food deserts are often represented as entire neighborhoods or clusters of neighborhoods without a mainstream grocery store.
According to the mayor, close to 450,000 Chicagoans do not have access to healthy foods for their family, and he expressed his commitment to eliminating these problems of food scarcity.
"I am grateful to the executives who joined me today and their commitment to working together to ensure that all Chicagoans have access to the produce they need to make healthy choices for themselves and their families," said Mayor Emanuel.
The mayor presented a refined map of food deserts based on updated data sets and went over detailed business cases with the executives for specific plots of land in each desert area.
Mayor Emanuel also went over plans for areas in which stores would encounter obstancles such as transportation, security, real estate, and bureaucratic red tape, all in an effort to reiterate to the executives that they have a partner in the young mayor.
Emanuel also hopes to work with the White House to set up a national model for healthy eating and living.