Episode 69: Whole Foods, Race and the Englewood Food Desert

The grocer, which has built its fortunes and reputation anchoring condo developments in wealthy enclaves, has never gone into a neighborhood like this. But last year, to the disbelief of many, the company announced plans to open a store in 2016 here, in one of Chicago’s most economically depressed neighborhoods.
— Emily Badger of "The Washington Post" on Whole Foods
We wanted to know, Whole Foods, are you going to hire people with records? We had been previously told that hands-down no, they aren’t going to hire anybody with records...Whole Foods really heard our concerns as a community and they are now coming up with a program to hire people with records at that store.
— Sonya Harper, Executive Director of Grow Greater Englewood.

While the distinctions between healthy and unhealthy food products are often evident to consumers, some communities lack the resources to acquire and store nutritious items. This week, we take a look at Englewood, a formerly thriving commercial suburb of Chicago whose prosperity in the 1930's has become a modern food desert in 2015. It is a predominantly black community of approximately 60,000 faced with poverty and high crime and unemployment. The grocery chain Whole Foods sees an opportunity and plans to open a branch in 2016. We thought it pertinent to discuss this complex relationship between food, opportunity and race in our discussion this week.

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