The problem of food deserts — areas where residents have no convenient access to fresh produce — is a concern in Chicago. To assess the extent of the problem, Mari Gallagher (who popularized the term) is enlisting communities across Chicago to gather new information on food access.
A new campaign is asking Chicago residents to use social media and other online tools to report on whether stores involved in the food stamp program are meeting government standards for offering food to their customers and to help consumers identify locations where they can find varied healthy foods and produce.
“It’s a democratization of data,” said Mari Gallagher, a leading Chicago expert on food desert issues. “The idea is to empower people; to ask the community what they think and to get people involved in what’s accessible to them.”
Gallagher said she envisions people using smart technology, such as online mapping tools, social media and phone locator apps to compile information on SNAP stores and the availability of fresh produce at them. She said she hopes people will post opinions and contribute to a larger discussion.
In this way, she said, people can really engage in combatting the food desert problem at a local level.
The existence and consequences of food deserts is discussed in several Roosevelt University sustainability courses, including the Spring 2012 offerings SUST 230 Food (online) and sections of the introductory course SUST 210 The Sustainable Future downtown and online. If you are a currently-enrolled Roosevelt University student interested in taking one or more Sustainability Studies courses, please get in touch with your academic advisor. If you are not currently a Roosevelt University student, we encourage you to investigate our degree options, and our course listings. For more information, please visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email applyRU@roosevelt.edu.