Last week, the news reported that Whole Foods Market, an expensive, upscale grocery store will be coming to Englewood, a neighborhood with high levels of poverty and poor eating habits. It is also one of many communities designated as a food desert. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as:
neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
There are mixed opinions about this super strange combination, mine included. While it appears that Whole Foods locating to this food desert is a good thing – and it is on the surface, residents and Chicagoans need to always question the motives of the government officials at all levels, especially when they “offer” to help people. Your radar really needs to really be on high alert when people with self-serving interests and big money – government and corporations – express an interest in helping people in areas like Englewood, people with little money, little education, lack of political knowledge or interests and are on survival mode. This is the easiest group to exploit on so many levels.
Following are six reasons why I’m leery about Whole Foods coming to Englewood…and you should be, too.
1. Chicago has always tried to “take” Englewood back
I was listening to WVON 1690 years ago and one of the personalities said that Englewood was eight minutes from the Loop, and the proposed location is less than five minutes from the Dan Ryan expressway and CTA’s red line. I am almost certain that the Chicago’s leadership has plans to change the color of this community.
2. Color and class change
Whole Foods Markets are typically located in communities where people with high incomes and education levels reside. Their eating habits food selections are way different from those of Englewood residents.
I was listening to a representative from Nielsen, the rating company, on the Steve Harvey Morning Show who shared that low-income people shop at drug stores, dollar stores and local stores in the community.
I think that making this store an anchor store in this community is the first step to changing the class and color of Englewood. I really believe that within the next five to 10 years, the community is going to be mostly white and middle- to upper-income if the people of Englewood aren’t diligent, speak their opinions and fight to save their neighborhoods.
3. Rahm wants a tech community
I’ve been reading stories in Crain’s Chicago about Rahm’s efforts to “lure” techies from the suburbs to Chicago. You know this is northern suburbs, right?
I also read an article that stated that a typical web user is white, middle or upper class, English speaking, higher educated and have a high speed connection. This may be the new “face” of Englewood.
I predict that Englewood will either become a tech community; a college community like UIC on Halsted; or upscale like the communities where they tore down the public houses and replaced them with condos and other housing options that former residents could not afford. Or, 63rd and Halsted could also become a “white area” surrounded by the rest of the community. Either way, a class and color change is on the way.
And, yes, current residents will have to fight like hell to keep their properties because the government is going to try to price them out.
4. Whole Foods is coming because Rahm asked
Not because they wanted to. If Whole Foods REALLY wanted to serve this community, they would have answered the call in 2006 when Mari Gallagher first reported about food deserts. They didn’t. This leads me to believe that had it not been for Rahm’s $10 million dollar incentive, Englewood would not be on their radar.
5. Ample time to “clean house”
The store is expected in 2016. That gives the city more than enough time to get the undesirables out of the community and clean up the riff raff just like they did with the public housing units. They are currently “cleaning house” in Bronzeville.
As I sit and write this article, I am beginning to believe that, although the Red Line was in need of serious repair, there are greater intents behind those repairs than the public would ever know. I can’t say that they were for the current residents. This is an additional incentive to “lure” those techies to this area of Englewood.
In addition to being eight minutes from the Loop and less than five minutes from the Dan Ryan expressway and CTA’s red line, the proposed location for Whole Foods sits will also be accessible by the 63rd Street and Halsted buses.
Those are just six reasons why I am leery about Whole Foods Coming to Englewood. I think this arrangement has more to do with the bottom lines and images of Chicago government and corporations than a legitimate concern about the health of the people of Englewood. And I truly believe that the ultimate goal is to change the class and color of the community.
Image: The Joint Blog