The Food Desert

Major swaths of Chicago lack access to healthful food. This simple truth hides a

thicket of related problems that researchers, activists, and public officials are struggling to resolve

A Report of the Illinois Advisory Committee to the
United States Commission on Civil Rights

Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. Residents identify themselves, and oftentimes pride
themselves, based upon the neighborhood in which they live. More importantly for this report,

researchers study the problem of food deserts by looking at neighborhood.

The neighborhoods these researchers have identified as food deserts exist largely on the south and

west sides of Chicago.
Unfortunately, in addition to being known as a city of neighborhoods, Chicago is also
known as one of the most segregated cities in the United States. The 2010 U.S. Census found
that overall integration is down from the 2000 Census, despite the Hispanic population being
slightly better integrated.5
However, the Chicago Sun Times found that in order for blacks to be
as evenly distributed as whites in the city, 81 percent of Chicago’s African Americans would
have to move.6
Today, African Americans largely reside in the city’s west
and south sides – areas that correspond with what researchers have found to be Chicago’s food
deserts.

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Can building a grocery store in a “food desert” change food purchasing and reduce health disparities in the U.S.? Tamara Dubowitz introduces an innovative new RAND project that may provide answers.

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