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Sam Acho Joins Young People To Turn Old Liquor Store Into Fresh Food Mart In South Austin

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It has been a refrain this week, this summer, this generation, and beyond – there is often a common denominator in bad behavior, and that is bad circumstances and lack of opportunity.

While every Tom, Dick, and Harry politician is talking that talk right now, one man – rather Bear, is walking the walk.

To be exact, that Bear is former Bears linebacker Sam Acho. After the looting and unrest in Chicago in recent weeks, he saw a need to feed and acted. He knew he had to do something for the community after the protests after racism, and the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, there is now one less food desert in South Austin thanks to the efforts of Acho and a kids' club.

It all started when Acho took a drive around the Austin neighborhood after a meeting with kids and police officers there, and he noticed liquor store after liquor store – but no grocery stores. Nowhere at all to get fresh food.

The drive tells the story. There are 17 liquor stores and two grocery stores in a half-mile radius.

"This is what is defined as a food desert," Acho said.

Looking around and listening to kids who live in Austin, Acho learned exactly how to make a real, immediate change in the Austin neighborhood.

"We asked some of the kids, where do you get your food from?" Acho said. "They said, 'Well, I go to the gas station to get my food.' Another kid said McDonald's."

Now, there are leafy green, oranges, and tomatoes at 423 N. Laramie Ave., where one of those 17 liquor stores stood less than two months ago. The effort was made possible with $500,000 raised by Acho and pro athletes across Chicago.

"Jason Heyward, Jason Kipnis from the Cubs. Jonathan Toews and Malcolm Subban from the Blackhawks. Mitch Trubisky. Allen Robinson," Acho said.

And that's just to name a few.

Fruits and veggies and only part of the effort at the market, which is a partnership with By The Hand Kids Club.

"We want to see a change in our community, in our neighborhood," said Keith Tankson, a sophomore at Steinmetz College prep.

Those kids will staff Austin Harvest.

"We're all 15 and were blessed to get jobs," Keith said.

Keith has been involved with By The Hands Kids Club since second grade.

"We needed this," he said. "It's crazy how a grocery store with fresh produce is hardly found. It's a necessity, but we don't have those things. How can a community be bountiful without necessities like fresh food?"

For now, Austin Harvest is a pop-up. It will be open for as long as Chicago's weather will allow.

But the long term plan is to turn it into a multi-level brick and mortar store that will nourish this community in more ways than one.

"We care about winning not just on the field, on the court, on the pitch, on the diamond - but also off of it," Acho said.

Austin Harvest Food Mart will be open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., but they plan on making an impact in the neighborhood for years to come. Again, the address is 423 N. Laramie Ave.

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