With only a few community grocery stores, Austin residents now have the option of shopping for groceries at one more place. The Walgreens at 5222 W. Madison St. is one of several on the West and South Sides that has expanded its food selection.
“These neighborhoods lack access to basic foods necessary to maintain a healthy diet, and with these new offerings, we hope to help our customers and neighbors gain access to healthier food options,” said Donald Williams, store manager at the West Madison store.
It is one of two Walgreens on the West Side that recently expanded its offering to include fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen meats and fish, pasta, rice, beans, eggs and whole grain cereals; the other location is at 2340 W. Madison St.
“Mayor Daley approached Walgreens last year . . . and wanted to know how we could help address food deserts,” said Williams. “For many, this might be a more convenient option than having to walk far or take public transportation to get to healthier food selections.”
Austin residents have complained about the community not offering enough healthy food
“There is a lack of grocery stores here in Austin,” said longtime Austin resident Phantasia Brown, 23.
Brown,who lives with her 2-year-old son lives on the 900 block of Waller, said there’s still a need for other stores to sell fresh produce and other healthy food. But she’s pleased she has another option in her neighborhood.
“Now that Walgreens offers a selection of groceries, I can do all of my shopping for me and my son in one place that is close to home,” said Brown.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600,000 Chicago residents live in neighborhoods that don’t have conventional grocery stores.
“Walgreens is responding to the competition and positioning itself to take advantage of the expanding market,” said Maurice Chapman of the Austin Health Center.
Sharon Walton, store manager at Austin’s Moo and Oink, said, “Walgreens prices are high, so I could only imagine how high-priced the food will be. I don’t think adding groceries will benefit people in Austin if they can’t afford them.”
Walton said Moo and Oink, located at 4848 W. Madison St., has been a staple in Austin for several years, and she doesn’t expect the Walgreens expansion to compete with her store.
The manager at Leamington Foods, located at 5467 W. Madison St., declined to comment.
Vivika Vergara, a media relations specialist for Walgreens, said it’s possible the chain will offer its expanded food selection to other communities across the country with similar characteristics. In the coming months, Walgreens will gauge the program’s success to determine its effectiveness in neighborhoods like Austin.
“We are always looking for ways to serve our communities and neighborhoods,” said Vergara. “We are positive that the more we do to help address the needs of our communities, they will continue (to) shop (at) their Walgreens, be it for fresh fruits and vegetables, personal care items or last-minute needs.”