The news:

Specialty grocery store Treasure Island opened its newest store on Chicago’s South Side, helping to fill the need for grocers in minority neighborhoods after the closings of Dominick’s and the Hyde Park Co-Op.

A Chicago Reporter analysis shows that grocery stores and other types of stores that sell groceries are more often found in Chicago’s white and Latino communities than in the city’s black communities. Of the stores found in black communities, more than 54 percent of them were liquor stores compared with 27 percent of stores in white communities and 26 percent of stores in Latino communities.

Note: The Chicago Reporter analyzed the locations of more than 930 packaged goods license holders on file with the City of Chicago. In addition, using the City of Chicago’s online business license look-up feature, the Reporter identified another 250 grocery stores by searching for businesses including the words “grocery,” “supermarket” or “finer foods” in their titles. In addition, the Reporter identified “major grocers” by searching for Aldi, Costco, Dominick’s, Jewel, Target, Trader Joe’s, Treasure Island and Whole Foods locations. All stores including the word “liquor” in their titles were considered liquor stores. Other stores selling groceries include local or regional grocers, neighborhood grocers, drug stores and convenience stores.

Source: Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Licensing, analyzed by The Chicago Reporter.

Behind the news:

An analysis by The Chicago Reporter found that the rate of grocery stores in white neighborhoods was 4.63 per 10,000 residents, compared with 3.24 in black and 4.24 in Latino neighborhoods. The Reporter analyzed 1,181 stores and Chicago businesses that hold current packaged-goods licenses, such as Aldi, Dominick’s, Jewel, Target and local mom-and-pop grocers, provided by the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Licensing.

Thirty-five percent of those licenses were given to liquor stores. The rate of liquor stores selling food in black and Latino neighborhoods was 1.76 and 1.12 respectively, compared with 1.24 in white neighborhoods. Many of these stores, roughly 58 percent, were located in neighborhoods with median incomes below Chicago’s median income, like Auburn Gresham, Austin and Logan Square.

In 2006, the Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group produced a report showing areas where few or no grocery stores were located, called “food deserts.” “It’s hard because you eat everyday,” said Gallagher. “You can decide to not take a vacation [or] not to go to Blockbuster. But people need to eat.”

Frances Spencer, assistant commissioner of the city’s Department of Planning and Development, said she recognizes a need for additional grocery stores as a result of Gallagher’s work. Spencer heads Retail Chicago, an outreach program to attract retail and service providers to underserved areas. Spencer helped organize the city’s second annual grocery store expo in 2007 at Navy Pier. Executives from independent and chain grocery stores were able to look at properties available for construction in various neighborhoods.

Lourdes G. Vazquez

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