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During the pandemic, disparities in life expectancy rates between Chicago’s Black and white residents grew from 8.8 years to 10 years. In 2019, the Windy City was also known to have the largest life expectancy rate gap in the country.
A contributing factor to shorter and disproportionate life spans in this segregated city is due to limited or no accessibility to healthy food options in predominantly Black and Latino communities, deeming those areas “food deserts”. But, Black-owned company, Yellow Banana, is looking to help change the quality of life for our residents.
The company’s website states, “Yellow Banana is a retail grocery platform that owns and operates 38 stores under the Save A Lot banner across the Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee, Jacksonville and Dallas metropolitan areas. Save A Lot was founded in 1977 and is one of the largest discount grocery store chains in the United States. Yellow Banana is proud to be Save A Lot’s fourth-largest Retail Partner. Two of our co-founders are Black and a third is both Black and Latino, so our ownership looks like many of our customers,”.
Yellow banana takes action in Chicago
In keeping with its mission, Yellow Banana plans to buy and revitalize six grocery stores on the south and west sides of the city. Having received $13.5 million through the city’s Community Development Grant program, the sites of the new stores will be former Save A Lot locations that have been closed in Black and Brown communities over the years.
This comes at a time when residents have become fed up with the city’s promises to bring more grocery retailers to their neighborhoods and began their own urban farms.
In Englewood, two miles away from where the only Whole Foods in the community is scheduled to close, the Stein Learning Gardens emerged to fill the growing gap of food insecurity during the pandemic. Its mission is to deliver high-quality garden education and community programs that create positive learning experiences, encourage healthy lifestyle choices, and increase community members’ access to fresh and affordable healthy produce.
Creating thriving communities by eliminating food deserts
Anton Seales started the organization Grow Greater Englewood in 2017 to partner with community stakeholders to develop local food economies and land sovereignty, which empower residents to thrive. Their vision is an African-centered community in which all people have resources to live safe, happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.
Urban Growers Collective was also started in 2017 and currently operates eight farms on 11 acres of land predominantly on the southside of the city. The organization also offers job training, grower’s apprenticeships, youth corps and financial assistance to families receiving SNAP benefits.
With these efforts, there has been stronger grassroots advocacy and investments in food apartheids. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “We want to make sure that the shopping experience of people on the South and the West Side is every bit as enjoyable as Downtown and on the North Side. Our residents deserve no less.”
The timeline for the opening of these grocery stores has not yet been disclosed.