Back to the Garden: Tilling the Food Deserts of Chicago’s South Side, Once Magazine: Issue 7
Story by Emily Schiffer, and Tasha Flournoy
On Chicago’s West and South Sides, it can be easier to get a meal from a fast food restaurant than from a grocery store. Some residents travel twice as far, on average, to reach a grocery store than to reach a fast food restaurant. Corner stores are many families’ primary source of food and, until recently, few supplied affordable, healthy alternatives to processed food. For households without cars, travelling a mile or more to buy fresh food is a significant barrier.
In the past five years, access to food in Chicago has started to change. Research, activism, and city policy have improved commercial food access and increasingly enabled locally-operated urban farms and gardens to supply their own neighborhoods. On Chicago’s South Side—composed of predominantly African American neighborhoods with the city’s highest concentration of food deserts—two sustainable gardens grow on what was previously a vacant lot. The gardens belong to the Remake the World Veterans Center (RTW) in the Washington Park neighborhood—across the street from the park that was a proposed site for the failed 2016 Olympic bid. Broken concrete roads and vacant lots hug corner stores named “Fish & Chicken” and “Finest Food Basket.” U.S. Military flags may wrap around the RTW’s front gates but all civilians looking for a hot meal are welcome.
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