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Lower crime rate a priority but $1 Englewood property may fix food desert now

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Is it possible that Whole Foods Market could have some healthy competition in Englewood? According to the Chicago Sun Times, Whole Foods Market will open an 18,000-square-foot store at 63rd Street and Halsted by 2016. But with recent news on Thurs., March 20, that Englewood residents would be able to purchase any of 5,000 vacant lots for $1, they may be able to give the healthy food chain a run for its money if the lots are used to garden and stop the food desert problem.

It is no secret to Chicagoans that this neighborhood is a high-crime area. From Jan. 25 to Feb. 24, the Chicago Tribune stats show that there have been 37 violent crimes (the highest is 18 robberies), 90 property crimes (the highest is 67 thefts) and 100 quality-of-life crimes (the highest is 76 narcotics).

However, the area is still ripe for the picking for residents who are in the early stages of careers and trying to find new ways to invest. The neighborhood is fairly young with the median age for males at age 29 and females at age 33. Bringing the high-crime rate down will always be the main priority that will take a team effort, but health conditions can be fixed on an individual basis right now.

The health question now is whether the responsibility of new property would be worth a gardening investment.

According to City Data, these are the most recent stats from the neighborhood of Englewood:

  • The median household income was $24,049 (in 2011).
  • The average estimated value of detached houses in 2010 was $139,029.
  • The percentage of home owners with a mortgage was 58.7 percent.
  • The median rental rate was $627.
  • There were 49.5 percent who lived below the poverty line.
  • The highest percentage of employed males were in service occupations (27.3 percent) followed by transportation occupations (12.1 percent).
  • The highest percentage of employed females were in sales and office occupations (36.2 percent) followed by service occupations (31.4 percent).

From a business standpoint, the area may not lean towards food production jobs. But for business trendsetters, gardening is a way to help the community, save money and improve the healthy food supply all at once.

According to the National Gardening Association, 54 percent of people who garden do it to save money on grocery bills and 34 percent say the current recession encouraged them to try it out. Thirty-three million households (91 percent) have food gardens in their own homes. The average amount spent to create a garden is $70.

Three of the most popular groups to participate in home gardening have nothing in common when it comes to salary. From highest to lowest, the salaries of gardeners are $35-$49,999; $75K and over; with the group under $35,000 close behind.

Although majority from the survey tended to be college graduates (43 percent) and Englewood's current educational stats have almost 45 percent without a high school education, it does not take a bachelor's degree to work with nature.

And that $70 investment saved homeowners $530. According to the survey, an estimated 300 pounds of fresh produce worth $600 can be grown in a 600-square-foot garden.

According to Whole Foods Market, those who are most likely to try organic food are age 42 with a household income of $50,000 or less.

Of course with a new store, this may help bring jobs into the community and give residents the option of purchasing healthier food. But for those residents who would rather not tap their fingers until 2016, starting their own food market may be the way to go.

Recommended Reading:

Chicago To Sell Properties For The Price Of A Candy Bar

City wants to offer vacant Englewood lots for a dollar

Juneteenth: The seeds of survival

Little Known Black History Fact: African Gardens

Planning for Green and Healthy Chicago Neighborhoods

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Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all her latest Chicago vegetarian entries, or subscribe to her Chicago Vegetarian channel at the top of this page. Also, follow her "Diet & Exercise" and "Vegetarian World" Pinterest boards. She's on Twitter @BlackHealthNews.

Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all her latest Chicago nutrition and fitness entries, or subscribe to her Chicago Diet and Exercise channel at the top of this page.