Chicago’s Food Desert

Chicago magazine | July 2009

In 2007, when I first pitched this story, “food desert” was not a household phrase. Not only did I have to make an editorial argument for why wealthy suburban readers should know or care about the plight of those who lacked access to fresh food. I also had to take a step back and consider the motives of each camp involved, from the supermarket executives to the community ministers to the academic researchers. Whose version should I believe? Who had it right? These were daunting questions for my first long-form narrative.

The process of picking up the threads and untangling them was my biggest reporting challenge to date. Writing this story was an education in many ways, and although I read it now with a few years’ distance and, with any luck, some growth as a writer, I’m proud of the result. I’m especially proud that the story was cited by the Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and is now in consideration for inclusion in an upcoming edition of A Reader for Writers, from Oxford University Press. Click the thumbnails below for larger views of the layout or read the story on the magazine’s website.

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