Is Chicago’s Loop a food desert?

The official boundaries of the Loop Community Area are from Roosevelt Rd (1200 S) north to the Chicago River, and Lake Michigan west to the Chicago River. The Loop is more commonly thought of as the area bounded by the El tracks and the streets that border the El: Van Buren St (400 S) to Lake St (200 N), Wabash Ave (45 E) to Wells St (200 W).

According to Wikipedia:

A food desert is an area, typically a populous urban environment, in the industrialized world where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain … Food deserts are sometimes associated with supermarket shortages

It seems genuinely absurd to refer to Chicago’s Loop as a “food desert” and to suggest that the neighborhood’s largely affluent residents lack adequate access to “healthy, affordable food.”

Or is it? Pause for a moment and consider the fact that many Loop residents are living in income-restricted affordable apartments or are students on limited budgets. Many don’t have parking at their building; many others don’t have access to cars, and the only full-service grocery in the Loop proper – the mixed-review City Target – has no on-site parking.

The downtown farmers markets at Daley Plaza and Federal Plaza fill some of the gap on a seasonal basis, but some find their offerings pricey, their selection limited and their times inconvenient.

There are, of course, quite a few full-service grocers in near-Loop locations. For the carless, bringing home a week’s worth of groceries requires incurring the cost of a cab, investing in a shopping cart or making multiple walking trips. Delivery services are available, also at a cost.

Some Loop buildings, including the new 235 Van Buren condominiums, have on-site or nearby convenience stores that may satisfy (again, at a cost) all of their residents’ grocery needs.

Apartment hunters and condo buyers may easily overlook the question of where they’ll do their food shopping, only to be dismayed when they learn the answer – or find themselves becoming all-too-regular patrons of some of the 100s of restaurants and fast-food outlets in the Loop.

NOTE: 235 Van Buren is one of YoChicago’s sponsors.

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