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Mayor Brandon Johnson explores opening city-owned grocery stores in food deserts

Chicago mayor explores opening a city-owned grocery store in food deserts
Chicago mayor explores opening a city-owned grocery store in food deserts 02:31

CHICAGO (CBS) – Despite a projected half-a-billion dollar city deficit, Mayor Brandon Johnson is exploring opening a city-owned grocery store to promote food equity.

But as CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported, residents won't be able to buy food anytime soon.

It's an endeavor done in other small cities, but if a Chicago-owned grocery gets up and running, and that's a big "if," the city would be the largest to accomplish it. Johnson's team explained the need for the project.

Many neighborhoods on the South and West sides are without quality grocery stores. Some former storefronts have windows boarded up after private chains moved out.

For example, one former Aldi at 76th and Ashland in Auburn Gresham closed more than a year ago.

"All of our stores are closing, and so now we have to go outside our neighborhoods to purchase food," said Shelly Williams, a South Side native.

Williams welcomes any plans to bring grocery stores back, including Johnson's newest initiative to get the city into the grocery chain business.

"I think that's a good idea that Mayor Johnson is picking up the slack where these big store chains are leaving," said Williams.

Under Johnson's proposal, the city would use economic development grants. Johnson's policy chief, Umi Grisby said the city will team up with an organization to open a city-owned grocery in one of Chicago's food deserts.

"So we are not spending any taxpayer dollars," Grisby said. "What we're also going to be able to access is the funding that exists at the national level, at the state level."

The major grocery store chains claim they left South and West side communities because being there wasn't profitable. So, how might Johnson's administration flip the narrative?

"So it's not necessarily about profitability," Grisby said. "It really is about what is the impact on Chicagoans."

Terry: "How does a grocery store get pushed ahead of crime and safety? Over other things?"

Grisby: "So I don't want to say that this is taking a priority. I would like to say that overall, it's not also about a grocery store. What it is is about increasing access to healthy options and to food for all Chicagoans."

While the mayor's office said the grocery store would be funded by grant money, that grant money could come from state and federal tax dollars, not just local taxes.

The city did not provide a timeline for when the initiative would or could move forward.

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