CHICAGO - A neighborhood food giveaway started by a local businessman has grown into a collaboration with several community groups and a local hospital.
The effort is in response to the loss of two grocery stores in the Garfield Park neighborhood recently.
An Aldi store closed in October and a Save-A-Lot was temporarily shut down by the city Feb. 8 due to a rodent infestation.
The Save A Lot, at 420 South Pulaski Road, could eventually reopen if the violations are corrected and it passes inspection but, in the meantime, residents were left with no place to buy fresh food.
That's why local businessman Deshawn Nelson, founder of Mr. Nelson's Movers, stepped up to help, partnering with Imperfect Foods to hand out enough fresh fruits and vegetables for 100 families last week.
"Just to give back, you know," Nelson said. "Because some people don't have the resources to get food. So I'm in a position I can give back."
This week, the collaboration grew and with help from food suppliers Top Box and 40 Acres, meat and canned goods were also distributed to even more people in a parking lot adjacent to the Save A Lot.
Dr. David Ansell from Rush University Medical Center, who was onsite helping with the effort, said fresh food is essential for good health.
"It's critically important," Ansell said. "There are large life expectancy gaps between neighborhoods. Just 2 miles to the east, in the Loop, you could live to 85 and in Garfield Park it's the lowest, lowest life expectancy on the West Side. Heart disease and cancer are the number one and two causes of death. And fresh food is critical."
Prentiss Brown said there are not more grocery shopping options in the neighborhood.
"It's hard. We don't have any bread right now and I have to travel maybe 3 miles to get a loaf of bread. And this right here is really helping us out we really appreciate it. I got pineapples, greens, corn, mushrooms and meat," said Brown.
Also participating in the giveaway were neighborhood groups West Side United, The Garfield Park Right to Wellness Group and students from local high schools.
Additional food giveaways are planned for March 5th, 12th and 19th.
Although Nelson is vowing to continue offering assistance until the Save A Lot or another grocery store opens.