Walgreens ' Oasis

Chain aims to fill in "food deserts"

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Walgreens this week unveiled its new expanded food selection in several Chicago communities identified as food deserts, or areas that lack access to basic foods necessary to maintain a healthy diet.

Walgreens redesigned 10 of its stores on Chicago's South and West sides to include more than 750 new food items, including fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen meats and fish, pasta, rice, beans, eggs, whole grain cereals and other healthy meal components.

The expanded food selection is now available at the following Walgreens locations: 2340 W. Madison [image-nocss] St. (Madison St. & Western Ave.) 10300 S. Michigan Ave. (Michigan Ave. & 103rd St.) 1533 E. 67th Place (67th Place & Stony Island) 1213 W. 79th St. (79th St. & Racine Ave.) 5036 S. Cottage Grove Ave. (Cottage Grove Ave. & 51st St.) 8636 S. Ashland Ave. (Ashland Ave. & 87th St.)

Four additional locations will be completed by the end of the month, including:

650 W. 63rd St. (63rd St. & Halsted Parkway) 2015 E. 79th St. (79th St. & Jeffery Blvd.) 11040 S. Michigan Ave. (Michigan Ave. & 111th St.) 5222 W. Madison St. (Madison St. & Laramie Ave.)

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. Last spring, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley appealed to Walgreens, as an accessible neighborhood retailer in Chicago, for help addressing the food desert problem.

"We immediately made a commitment to seek solutions for offering these communities more fresh and healthy food options," said Mark Wagner, Walgreens executive vice president of operations and community management. "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. Today, 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."

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

In addition, Walgreens has joined forces with Northwestern Medicine and Near North Health Service Corp. to pilot a program designed to educate residents in food desert communities about the link between healthy food choices and preparation and better management of chronic illnesses like diabetes.

The pilot program will offer food "prescriptions" to diabetes patients at Near North's Komed Holman Health Center for healthy foods now available at Walgreens. Patients will receive discounts on featured items at the 67th and Stony Island Walgreens, and shelf tags are posted there to help patients easily identify healthy food options. This model could be replicated with other Near North health centers located near Walgreens food desert stores in the future.

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens is the nation's largest drug-store chain with fiscal 2009 sales of $63 billion. The company operates 7,545 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.