Retail chiefs gather to discuss food deserts with Chicago mayor

Walgreens, Walmart currently provide fresh food options to neighborhoods

CHICAGO — The Windy City’s problem with food deserts is getting attention from the city’s mayor and some of the country’s top retailers, according to published reports.

ABC reported Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel held a summit with CEOs from Walgreens, Walmart, Aldi, Roundy’s and the companies that operate the Jewel and Dominick's chains. During the summit, Emanuel offered incentives for the companies to build stores in the food deserts, which are low-income neighborhoods that lack large supermarkets, thus making residents unable to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables.

Walgreens already has built several stores in Chicago that offer expanded fresh food options as a way of addressing the food desert problem, including at least one store that has 40% of its retail space dedicated to food. Walmart also has built Walmart Express stores in Chicago food-desert neighborhoods, including West Englewood.

What's more, Walgreens also has sought to expand its fresh-food store concept. CEO Greg Wasson said at a shareholders meeting earlier this year that the company may expand its fresh food centers to 400 or more stores over the next several years, and the company announced in May that it would test-market stores with healthy food options at 30 locations in San Francisco.

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