Living in a Food Desert: A Community Perspective

By: Crystal Stonewall

1-woman-grocery-shopping-mdnA food desert is an area where affordable, healthy food is difficult to obtain, particularly for those without access to an automobile. The term “food desert” may be new to some, but this phenomenon is actually very common, especially right here in Chicago.

Englewood, a neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago, has gained much press recently for being a food desert. Despite Englewood being the home to a Food4Less grocery store, many of the residents are too poor to shop at the grocery store, and therefore rely on food ministries and food pantries for food access. Englewood’s median household income is $24,049 which is sufficiently low in comparison to Chicago’s average median household income of $43,628 (Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, City-Data). When asked about living in a food desert, one teen stated, “At this point, I am accustomed to living in a food desert. I have hope that one day this will change for my neighborhood. In fact, I have been listening to the news, and heard about the new Whole Foods opening in the near future.”

One reason Englewood has been gaining so much attention is because Whole Foods is opening in the neighborhood. Many feel Whole Foods is not an appropriate store for this neighborhood because the prices of the goods sold at Whole Foods are substantially higher than the average grocery store. According to a study done by The Bill Fold, Whole Foods grocery items cost, on average, $2 more than items sold in the average store.

Whole Foods Organic Safeway Regular Produce
Parsley: $1.29 Parsley: $0.99
Cilantro: $1.29 Cilantro: $0.99
Green Lettuce: $1.99 Green Lettuce: $1.99
Green Onion: $1.29 Green Onion: $0.99
Carrots: $0.99/lb. Carrots: $0.99
Bananas: $0.99/lb. Bananas: $0.79/lb.
Garlic:$0.72 each Garlic:$0.50 each
Limes: $0.50 each Limes: $0.33 each
Gala Apples: $2.49/lb. Gala Apples: $1.99/lb.
Total: $11.55 Total: $9.56


To help eliminate food deserts, we should (1) help those in our community understand the problems associated with food deserts, and (2) discuss different options to fix the problem, such as community gardens and working with local retailers. According to JaMonica Marion, an Agriculture teacher, “Educating consumers on healthy food choices, promoting local grocery stores to sell produce, and creating urban co-ops can help alleviate food deserts.” Ultimately, the best way to improve a food desert is having the willingness to make a change.

This blog post was written by Crystal Stonewall, a junior at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.

Improving Your Self-Esteem

self esteem blogMental and emotional health is just as important as physical health—especially when you’re an adolescent. And understanding your self-esteem is an important element in self-identity and emotional health. Self-esteem is a term used when reflecting on one’s overall emotional evaluation. Essentially it’s a way you feel about yourself and your worth. Do you ever find yourself saying “I’m too tall/too short/I wish I had straight hair/curly hair/longer legs, and if I were different, then I’d be happy?” You’re not alone. As your body goes through changes, your reflection of yourself goes through changes as well. But it’s important to not dwell on the negatives, as this can lower your self-esteem.

Your self-esteem and body image can be influenced by your peers, your family, your coaches, the media, and even by yourself. Often we feel pressure to conform to what we “should” look like, or “should” act like, and this pressure can be overwhelming. But don’t worry! Take a deep breath. Remember that, chances are, others are feeling the same pressure that you feel and you’re not alone.  To overcome these pressures, try to keep in mind that your body is your own, no matter the shape or size. There is no one “right” way to look and act, so there’s no point in trying to conform to a single image that you have in your mind as perfect. Try focusing on the positive aspects of yourself and directing your goals to positive celebrations of your body and self.  Exercise shouldn’t be about getting thinner; it should be about challenging your body to be stronger. Studying and working hard shouldn’t be about proving yourself to your classmates; it should be an exciting opportunity to expand your mind and perspective in new ways. Simple redirections of your goals can help put your body image and self-esteem in a more positive light.

Slow down and think about the positive things you offer. Write them down. Seriously. Seeing your thoughts about yourself on paper can help you put your life in perspective and can often reveal your goals. Once you’ve done that, think about ways that you can achieve the goals you set for yourself. Join a club or a sport team you’ve always wanted to try; volunteer after school for a local organization that interests you; set aside some relaxation time every day to get your positive vibes flowing–whatever it is, be confident in yourself. Focusing on the negatives and putting yourself down will get you nowhere, but broadening your horizons to celebrate the positives within you can go a long way!