Peapod to Hold Food Desert Community Forum

Internet grocer Peapod this week will host its first community forum as part of a continuing initiative to provide healthy food choices in “food deserts,” where mainstream grocery stores are scarce.

Scheduled for Thursday, June 10, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Tarkington Elementary School in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood of Chicago, the forum, to be held in partnership with sustainable communities group Neighbor Capital, is an extension of the Healthy Families Project that Peapod and Neighbor Capital rolled out earlier this year. According to a study by Chicago-based Mari Gallagher Research Group, the over 600,000 residents who live in the city’s food deserts are more likely to die prematurely from diet-related health conditions such as diabetes.

Forum attendees will learn how they can take part in a community drop-off program, how to place orders online and about employment opportunities. They also be served a healthy meal and free samples of Peapod’s new “Best Fruit of the Season,” a 10-piece bundle of mixed fruit designed to be sold at the deeply discounted price of $2.99 at designated pickup sites such libraries, schools and community centers in food deserts.

Earlier this year, Peapod retailed Mari Gallagher to conduct a block-by-block analysis to identify areas where the Skokie, Ill.-based e-grocer may help the greatest number of people. Gallagher will present new findings at the forum, among them maps of the hardest-hit areas.

“The barriers are pervasive in food desert communities, but we’re moving forward with the belief that with education and strategic partnerships, we can reverse these negative trends for the long term,” said Peapod SVP and general manager Scott DeGraeve. “For us, opening up access to healthy food choices in food desert communities is more than a business imperative; it’s the right thing to do.”

Although many food desert residents don’t own home computers, Peapod, through its partnership with Neighborhood Capital, is looking to join up with local community groups to facilitate online ordering for people in affected neighborhoods.

The forum will feature new Peapod customers, as well as vendors such as organic produce distributor Goodness Greeness and Sweet Beginnings, a Chicago-based firm that harvests honey for the manufacture of natural skin care products.

Peapod has recently expanded service into the 60629 and 60632 ZIP codes, which include the working-class Chicago Lawn, Brighton Park and Archer Heights communities.
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