October 25, 2011

Mayor Emanuel Announces Three Dozen New and Expanded Grocery Stores in Communities Across Chicago, Creating More Than 2000 Jobs and Reducing "Food Desert" Acreage in Low-Income Communities by 20%

Also announces agreement between local growers and grocery stores to buy and sell produce in local stores; new farmers markets in neighborhoods that lack them

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Today Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined First Lady Michelle Obama and executives from major grocery chains across the country to announce plans to open 36 new grocery stores in communities across Chicago: 17 traditional grocery stores and 19 expanded Walgreens Co. stores that include fresh food. The majority of the stores will be located in communities with food deserts, as part of the Administration’s ongoing commitment to expand access to fresh and healthy foods across in the city. The Mayor also announced that one of Chicago’s major urban farm networks, Growing Power, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Walgreens Co. and Aldi to increase access not only to locally grown produce, but to job opportunities and economic development across its farm locations in Chicago.

"We can talk all we want about making healthy choices about the food we serve our kids, but if parents don't have anywhere to buy those foods, then that's all it is - it's just talk," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "Imagine what we could achieve if mayors across the country started taking on this issue. Think about all the jobs we could create, all the neighborhoods we could begin to transform and what it means when our children finally get the nutrition they need to grow up healthy. I am confident that - one neighborhood, one community, one city at a time - we can ensure that all our kids have the happy, healthy futures they deserve."

“It is unacceptable that a half-million Chicagoans do not have access to healthy, fresh foods for their family and I am committed to the elimination of these food deserts in our city,” said Mayor Emanuel at a Walgreens on Chicago’s South Side. “I am grateful to First Lady Michelle Obama, grocery executives and mayors who joined us today for their commitment to working together to ensure that residents have access to the foods they need to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. Stores like this one are a win-win-win – a win for the local economy, a win for local job creation, and a win for the Chicagoans who now have access to a full selection of groceries and fresh food.”

New stores in communities that lack access to fresh foods

Four grocery chains announced their intention to open 17 new stores in communities across Chicago. They include:

  • Supervalue Inc. will open a new Save-A-Lot store by the end of 2011 in North Lawndale, and is working on new Save-A-Lot stores in the Grand Boulevard, Austin, Near West Side, West Pullman, Morgan Park, Calumet Heights, West Englewood and Englewood communities.
  • Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. announced plans to build three new Mariano’s Fresh Markets stores in Bronzeville, South Chicago and Forest Glenn;
  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is finalizing three new stores on the south and southwest sides; and
  • Aldi’s Store Inc. will build a store in Roseland.

“Next month, we will open our sixth new Save-A-Lot store in Chicago this year bringing fresh fruits, vegetables and meats to communities that today have limited or no access to them.  We are proud that these stores have created nearly 200 jobs and are helping provide groceries to more than 10,000 customers daily in underserved neighborhoods,” said Craig Herkert, SUPERVALU chief executive officer and president. “SUPERVALU remains committed to bringing healthy, affordable food offerings to customers in Chicago and throughout the United States."

“To-date, we’ve brought more than 900 jobs to Chicago, in addition to the several hundred construction jobs created as we built our existing Chicago stores,” said Roundy’s Chairman and CEO, Bob Mariano.  “These three new store locations affirm our commitment to serving Chicago and spurring economic development, while providing even more job opportunities throughout the city.”

“As part of our commitment to the people of Chicago, Walmart is bringing fresh, healthy, and affordable food where it is needed most – including areas that serve food deserts,” said  Bill Simon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Walmart US.  “We’re creating jobs and opportunity in neighborhoods that need more of both and helping build healthier families and stronger communities.”

“ALDI is committed to providing Chicagoans with better access to fresh affordable foods. During the
last five years, ALDI has invested more than 50 million dollars to develop new stores in Chicago,
with many traditionally referred to as food deserts,” said Jason Hart, president, ALDI USA.  “Next fall we plan to open a store at 115th Street and Michigan Avenue, which will be our 39th store in a Chicago. We have provided Chicagoans with the highest quality grocery products for more than 25 years and today we continue to stress the importance of healthy food options. For example, our popular Fit & Active line of products is lower in fat, lower in calories or lower in sodium and can be found across various product categories throughout ALDI stores."

Expanded Walgreens pharmacies to include fresh food and groceries, purchase from local farms

Walgreens Co. today announced the locations of 19 expanded stores that will be located in areas across the city that lack access to groceries and fresh food. The retrofitted stores will offer a broader selection of healthy and fresh foods, create jobs and spur economic development. The partnership with Growing Power will begin the sale of local produce in these stores, and the two organizations will collaborate to identify the most appropriate goods for stores across the city in order to promote this goal. Walgreen’s will also work with Growing Power to provide in-store nutrition education programming and other efforts meant to promote healthy eating.

“Walgreens is very excited to work with Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago to address the need for more food oasis stores across our hometown of Chicago,” said Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson. “With more than 45 percent of our stores located in or around food deserts, we are uniquely positioned to increase access to healthy food and help bring solutions to these communities. Another important aspect of this effort is our relationship with a group of urban farmers from Chicago communities like Roseland and Washington Park who will provide high-quality produce that we will offer to our customers. All of us are working toward a common goal of getting healthy fresh, affordable foods in the hands of people who need it most.”

"This is a great opportunity for people in Chicago who want to eat good food and purchase it locally.  It's exciting to see the urban agriculture zoning amendment that passed in September so quickly manifest into economic development opportunities for Chicago,” said Erika Allen, Chicago and National Projects Manager, Growing Power, Inc. “This partnership will connect local growers with market opportunities, increase people's access to fresh, healthy food, and create jobs within their community."

New farmers markets in low-access neighborhoods

With a $150,000 combined commitment from Kraft Foods Foundation and Safeway Foundation, the City will pilot up to five new farmers markets in food deserts on Chicago’s west side over the next two years. The markets will feature local growers selling produce, accept LINK cards, and offer creative programming like cooking demonstrations and nutrition education.

“We are proud to be involved in this important partnership and this commitment to bringing nutritious food to additional communities throughout Chicago,” said Brian Baer, President of Dominick’s Finer Foods, which is owned by Safeway Inc.

The Mayors Summit on Food Access

The announcements were made at the conclusion of a day-long Mayoral Summit hosted by Mayor Emanuel and Let’s Move! Mayors from across the country gathered in Chicago to discuss best practices and explore new strategies that local leaders can implement to expand access to fresh and healthy foods in underserved communities. In the afternoon, Mayor Emanuel featured local chefs and area farms during a lunch, where the visiting mayors saw first-hand how the Chicago-area’s urban agriculture industry supports local restaurants and discussed ways that government can help support urban agriculture and spur job development that comes with meeting the demands of this growing field.

Mayors who participated in the summit include:

  • Mayor Joseph Curtatone; Somerville, MA          
  • Mayor R. T. Rybak; Minneapolis, MN    
  • Mayor Mick Cornett; Oklahoma City, OK          
  • Mayor Heather Hudson; Greenville, MS
  • Mayor Manuel Lozano; Baldwin Park, CA        
  • Mayor Tom Barrett; Milwaukee, WI        
  • Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; Baltimore, MD        
  • Mayor Willis "Chip" Johnson; Hernando, MS    

Mayor Emanuel’s record on fighting food deserts

Since taking office in May, Mayor Emanuel has taken a variety of steps to eliminate food deserts and expand access to fresh and healthy food options for Chicagoans in every community

In June, Mayor Emanuel convened a meeting with leading grocery chains that began serious dialogue about eliminating food deserts in targeted communities in Chicago. The agreements announced today are a direct result of the conversations that started in this meeting. During the June meeting, Mayor Emanuel showed a map of food deserts in Chicago, utilizing new city data sets to create a much more refined and accurate representation of the impact food deserts are having on Chicago’s communities, map, and built detailed business cases for specific plots of land in each desert area. Additionally, the Mayor and the grocery chain executives discussed solutions to areas in which stores face obstacles to growth – lack of transportation, security, real estate development and bureaucratic red tape. The Mayor reiterated that the executives have a partner in him to promote growth.

Also in June, Mayor Emanuel and Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson announced that Walgreens would bring 600 new jobs to Chicago over the next two years – 300 of which will be at stores located in food deserts – under its new “Chicago Hometown Investment Initiative,” and quadruple the number of its stores located in food deserts across the city’s neighborhoods. Today’s announcement is part of this commitment.

In September, Mayor Emanuel passed an ordinance to promote the expansion of urban agriculture and community gardens throughout the City making it easier for communities to turn vacant lots into vibrant urban farms while creating jobs for local residents. Specifically the ordinance increases the size limit on community gardens to 25,000 square feet, relaxes fencing and parking requirements on larger commercial urban farms to hold down startup costs and allow for hydroponic and aquaponic systems and keeping honey bees under set conditions.