CHICAGO — Mayor Johnson has announced that Chicago has partnered with the Economic Security Project to work on a pathway toward opening a city-owned grocery store.

The non-profit will provide technical assistance to the city.

“All Chicagoans deserve to live near convenient, affordable, healthy grocery options. We know access to grocery stores is already a challenge for many residents, especially on the South and West sides,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson.

Food deserts have been a cause for concern on the South and West Sides after departures of Walmart, Aldi and others. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 63.5% of residents in West Englewood and 52% of residents in East Garfield Park live more than half a mile from their nearest grocery store.

“The City of Chicago is reimagining the role government can play in our lives by exploring a public option for grocery stores via a municipally owned grocery store and market,” said Ameya Pawar, Senior Advisor at Economic Security Project and former alderperson. “Not dissimilar from the way a library or the postal service operates, a public option offers economic choice and power to communities. A City-owned grocery store in the South or West side of Chicago would be a viable way to restore access to healthy food in areas that have suffered from historic and systemic disinvestment.”

The city mentioned potential funding from the Illinois Grocery Initiative — which commits $20 million for grants and technical assistance for grocery stores across the state.

Chicago would be the first major city in the U.S. with a municipally-owned grocery store if advanced.