Walgreens used a gala event at one of its drug stores on the city’s South Side earlier this month to showcase its newest concept — an expanded food selection in areas that lack access to the basic food necessary to maintain a healthy diet.


Walgreens, Chicago, food desert, food oasis, South Side, Richard Daley, John Grant, Mark Wagner, food, Richard Monks, drug store, Northwestern Medicine, Near North Health Service Corp., grocery store, supermarket










































































































































































































































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Walgreens steps up to the plate with more food

August 30th, 2010
Fresh produce is a key element of Walgreens' expanded food format at the Chicago stores.

CHICAGO – Walgreens used a gala event at one of its drug stores on the city’s South Side earlier this month to showcase its newest concept — an expanded food selection in areas that lack access to the basic food necessary to maintain a healthy diet.

In a daylong event that included cooking demonstrations, giveaways of healthful food, health screenings and speeches from a noted radio personality and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Walgreens showed off one of the 10 stores on the city’s South and West sides that have been redesigned to provide shoppers in these areas access to more than 750 new food items including fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen meat and fish, pasta, rice, beans, eggs and whole grain cereals.

In addition, the store offers patients from the area who enrolled in a diabetes program run by Northwestern Medicine and Near North Health Service Corp. discounts on a variety of food items. Shelf tags help patients easily identify healthful food options.

Executives from the health care providers say they hope to expand the model to other Near North health centers located near Walgreens’ “food desert” stores.

“We’re a health and wellness company, and that speaks volumes,” Walgreens’ Chicago area market vice president John Grant said about the food desert stores. “We have an obligation to step up to the plate when we can, and this is an example of that.”

Grant, who served as master of ceremonies for the unveiling of the redesigned store, explained that the idea behind the 10-outlet experiment grew out of conversations last year with the mayor and city officials, who sought out the retailer to help residents in neighborhoods that lacked access to supermarkets.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600,000 Chicago residents live in neighborhoods that are either lacking or too far away from conventional grocery stores.

Overseeing one of Chicago’s most visible retailers and a company whose roots are in the city’s South Side, Walgreens executives say they knew they had to act quickly to remedy the problem. Within two months of the city’s request for help, the company had opened its first revamped store.

Other units have been converted to the food concept over the past year, with the last four stores opening in just the past two weeks.

“Walgreens has taken great pride in meeting the needs of Chicago communities since opening our first store on the city’s South Side 109 years ago,” executive vice president of operations and community management Mark Wagner says. “We couldn’t be more pleased to provide additional basic staples that will inevitably help improve health outcomes for many in these previously underserved communities.”

Wagner and Grant noted that while the 10 stores in Chicago will serve as a test of the expanded food selection, the “food oasis” idea is likely to be expanded to other markets.

The pair say that at least 400 Walgreens stores across the country are in communities where residents lack access to basic food.

“We know this issue is not exclusive to Chicago,” Wagner remarks. “We have more locations in America’s underserved communities than any other retailer. That makes us well positioned to play a role in addressing this important need beyond Chicago.”

City officials say the redesigned Walgreens units will go a long way toward improving the lives of residents in the previously underserved neighborhoods.

“This is a great step forward in addressing the challenge of neighborhoods that have limited availability of healthy foods,” Daley said during his speech at the ceremony. “I want to thank Walgreens for its commitment to making Chicago a better place and helping Chicagoans live healthier lives.”

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