Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has recently announced that a partnership with a far-left non-profit has been formed to push for his proposal of a government-owned grocery store. This move, he argues, is necessary to tackle the growing problem of “food equity” and to address racial injustices in the city.
The mayor’s office released a statement, stating that “[f]ood access and security link directly to environmental and racial justice,” and pointed out that a significant percentage of Black and Latine/x residents in Chicago are food insecure. This, along with the exit of corporate grocery stores from the city, has prompted the need for a city-owned grocery store, the statement argued.
The closure of several corporate grocery stores, including Walmart and Amazon-owned Whole Foods, has left many Chicago residents in underserved neighborhoods without convenient access to fresh and affordable food options. Unfortunately, these neighborhoods have also seen a spike in crime, with a 25% increase in shoplifting in the past year alone.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon warned last year that if shoplifting across the country did not decrease, the company would have to shut down some of its stores. This, along with the company’s unprofitability in Chicago for over 17 years, has led to the closure of four stores in the city’s South and West Side neighborhoods earlier this year.
In response, Mayor Johnson has proposed the idea of a city-owned grocery store, which would be the largest of its kind in the U.S. However, with the city projecting a deficit of $538 million for the upcoming fiscal year, the cost of this project remains unclear. The mayor’s office has assured citizens that no taxpayer dollars will be used but has acknowledged that state and federal funding as well as economic grant money, which ultimately comes from taxpayers, will be utilized.
Critics have raised concerns about the city’s track record of corruption and its half-a-billion-dollar deficit, questioning whether this plan is feasible and efficient. They have likened the proposal to “Soviet-style central planning” and have also questioned how the store would affect private enterprise and the setting of prices.
In response to these concerns, the mayor’s office has emphasized the need for this project to promote “food equity” and address racial injustices in the city. They have also mentioned the formation of a community safety team to tackle crime, but its effectiveness remains to be seen.
As of now, it is uncertain when the city-owned grocery store will be up and running, and many details, such as prices and funding, still need to be ironed out. However, for Chicago residents in underserved neighborhoods, the promise of a city-owned grocery store may be a step towards a more equitable future.