Report Prompts City Leaders to Examine Strategies for Improving Access to Goods

Author: Jake Cowan and Tom Kingsley
Date Posted: August 26, 2011

The Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC) released a report in October 2005 on the disparate access to goods and services for some Chicago neighborhoods. MCIC’s report, "Chain Reaction: Income, Race, and Access to Chicago's Major Player Grocers” examined the locations of the outlets of major food chains in relation to neighborhood conditions. MCIC also analyzed a wide range of other commercial location patterns, such as major fast food restaurants, major pharmacies, and liquor stores, all of which are frequent substitutes for grocers in low-investment communities. Additionally, MCIC did baseline analysis on other commercial indicators relating to health and wellness, services, food and drink, entertainment and culture, and general shopping. The report showed that lower income and minority communities have less access to quality food and other consumer goods than other Chicago residents. Communities with less access to grocery stores are primarily located on Chicago's South side.

The report was highlighted in City Council debates following its release, and the Mayor's Office sponsored a forum on grocery store location in Chicago. Several major grocery stores attended the forum and heard presentations on the need for more stores in targeted Chicago communities. The forum also featured a presentation of other MCIC data such as area population and local buying power, which demonstrated the viability of larger-box grocery stores in these targeted communities. Commitments were made by the grocery stores to work with the City Department of Planning and Economic Development to analyze suitable sites and opportunities. MCIC plans to continue to update and publish these data each year to monitor the progress on this issue.

This story was initially published in Stories: Using Information in Community Building and Local Policy in June 2007.

The report, "Chain Reaction: Income, Race, and Access To Chicago's Major Player Grocers" can be accessed on the MCIC web site.

This story was written by staff at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with Garth Taylor of MCIC. The Metropolitan Chicago Information Center was the Chicago partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network coordinated by the Urban Institute, at the time of the story. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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