Chicago business owner works to combat food insecurity after Save-A-Lot rat infestation

Michelle Gallardo Image
Monday, February 21, 2022
Chicago business owner helps community through store closure
A West Garfield Park business owner teamed up with Rush University Medical Center to combat food insecurity after a Save-A-Lot rat infestation.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- When the neighborhood Save-A-lot temporarily closed due to a rat infestation earlier this month, it hit close to home for West Garfield Park's Deshawn Nelson.

"Born and raised," said Nelson, who is the owner of a local moving company. "Right around the corner."

Nelson started giving back to the neighborhood a couple of years ago as his business took off.

Food insecurity in West Garfield Park runs high. After the local ALDI closed last October, the Save-A-Lot was the last remaining supermarket there. The closure forced residents, who often times do not have their own transportation, to travel long distances in search of fresh food. Nelson, for example, now drives up to 40 minutes away for his groceries.

"You have to travel outside of your community approximately two miles to get to the closest grocery store that has healthy produce," said Julia Basset of Rush University Medical Center. "They resort to going to their local gas station, to go to maybe a liquor store... or the most popular thing they do is go to a fast food chain."

To help alleviate the problem, Rush University Medical Center has partnered with Nelson and others in the community to, starting tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. and for the next few weeks, be on-site and offer food boxes to folks in the area, hopefully until the Save-A-Lot reopens. It's something they already have experience with, having done the same thing several times since the pandemic began.

"Those meals we are going to provide tomorrow can feed a family of four for approximately one week and a half, so we will be back out there in weeks following that, to support the community," Basset said.

For Nelson, the work is personal.

"When I was younger, I didn't have certain things as well, food," Nelson said. "People donated me food as well and my family. So it's good that I can give back to other families."

According to Alderman Jason Ervin, the Save-A-Lot is in currently in the process of another inspection. Once completed, they will be able to regain their license and re-open once more.