A customer walks out of Whole Foods at Englewood Square on April 29 after the company announced that the store will be closing in the coming months.
Access to affordable, convenient, healthy food and groceries, especially fruits and vegetables, is a persistent problem impacting 40 million Americans. Locally, a large number of Black Chicagoans live in areas with few grocers — the technical term being food deserts — which contributes to higher diabetes and heart disease rates, increased poverty and lower educational outcomes.
Bringing fresh food to underserved communities has been a priority for many policymakers. They have showered grocery store chains with tax subsidies, sales tax abatements, and other giveaways. Chicago is no different.
Case in point: In 2013, the city provided an Englewood shopping center development, which included Whole Foods, $11 million in tax subsidies. Then-Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb worked to find ways to ensure affordable pricing through community partnerships and lean operations. The Englewood store opened in 2016.
At the time, Whole Foods was a publicly traded company, beholden to shareholders. Local stakeholders and food access mattered little when the pressure to deliver quarterly results mattered most. By late 2016, Robb was out as CEO, and in 2017, Jeff Bezos-owned Amazon purchased the Whole Foods chain.
Now Whole Foods has announced the closure of the Englewood store (along with a handful of other stores elsewhere).
The Whole Foods closure is emblematic of a broader problem. When market actors — such as grocers, banks, and broadband providers — divest from a community, policymakers turn to incentives to lure them back. This tactic works only occasionally.
We believe now is the time to rethink this approach with a straightforward solution: the city operates the Englewood Whole Foods as a public option.
You might be wondering what the city knows about operating a business. The answer: A lot, actually. The city owns and operates O’Hare and Midway Airports, two massive public enterprises critical to the local and global economy. Chicago’s water system is another example, supplying water to millions of people. These businesses are complex and professionally run, and there’s no reason why the city couldn’t do the same with grocery stores.
Yes, the city is cash-strapped, and there will be startup costs. But the strategy of repeatedly throwing money at big businesses for temporary band-aids costs even more. The city is awash in federal recovery funds meant for transformational investments just like this.
Moreover, there is precedent for such action.
In 2018, the closure of Baldwin, Florida’s, only grocery store sent a shockwave through the town. With the nearest alternative over 20 miles away, Baldwin became a food desert overnight. The recently elected Republican mayor made a common-sense move: he bought the store and started running it under the town’s banner.
Baldwin is not alone. In …read more
Source:: Chicago Sun Times
Stock Market: Suez Canal Update! Floating!
The Suicide Squad | Official IMAX® Red Band Trailer
From the horribly beautiful mind of James Gunn and filmed in IMAX. Experience