race in chicago

Race in Chicago: A Look at Chicago's Ongoing Food Insecurity Struggle

Food insecurity in Chicago is a decades-old problem impacting many in African-American neighborhoods

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Two months after opening a carry-out restaurant in the West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago, businessman Jermaine Jordan said he is serving anywhere from 800 to 900 free hot meals every day.

Jordan, who owns a nearby car wash, said he relies on financial contributions and donations in order to provide free meals and fresh produce to people who stand in line outside the restaurant on West Madison Street.

“It’s even more of a need now because the numbers I’m feeding has increased,” Jordan said.

Jordan’s restaurant is the closest thing some nearby residents have to a neighborhood market with fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I feel great that he doing this for the people around here that’s homeless,” said Andre Smith, who recently showed up for a hot chicken lunch.

Food insecurity is defined by the Greater Chicago Food Depository as a lack of consistent access to adequate, nutritious food. The issue impacts residents of many communities, but people who live in Chicago’s predominately African-American neighborhoods often deal with higher percentages of food insecurity.

“It’s been a problem for many years. We know that Chicago has an issue that relates to racial segregation. People lack access to sort of basic resources and one of those basic resources is retail food,” said Dr. Angela Odoms-Young, an associate professor in the department of kinesiology and nutrition in the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Applied Health Sciences.

According to geography professor Dr. Daniel Block of Chicago State University, white residents moving out of neighborhoods where black residents were moving in, the building of expressways, and the promotion of home buying through government home loan programs led to many white residents moving to the suburbs.

And many grocery stores in the city closed.

“At the same time, many neighborhoods within the city became more generally poor,” Block said.

A lack of access to quality, healthy foods could result in people spending more of their time and money traveling outside of their neighborhoods to buy groceries.

“You have to spend more, so the burden is more,” said Odoms-Young.

Experts told NBC 5 people can help lessen food insecurity by volunteering at food distribution centers and contributing to community gardens.

But some said the solution will take more than new grocery stores.

“We do want retailers to continue to support the communities,” said Nicole Robinson of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  “But we also want investments in black and brown operated corner stores and neighborhood stores and produce markets and farmers markets, food retailers, because they’ve also been the heroes in this pandemic.”

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