[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #2 in February 2006]
The Institute for Community Resource Development and its head Ladonna Redmond are making practical maneuvers to secure food resources on the West Side of Chicago. An Austin-based organization, ICRD is currently placing the final edits on a business plan for a community-owned grocery store that seeks to make sustainable food something it rarely is: affordable. The store will be a mixture of what is typical of a grocery store but it will be developed to ensure community control and guarantee a better selection of fruits, vegetables and other foods often in short supply in West Side areas.
“The store will be non-profit owned and include employee stock options. There will be some private equity in the store but the majority of stock will be held by the employees and icrd,” Redmond said. “We will replicate what people are used to but we will have more fresh fruits and vegetables.” There will be sections for organic foods, too. Redmond said she is focused on selling what people want to buy.
Redmond has deep roots in Austin, remarking that her connections made everything easier when she started her current food projects. She said she’s a strong believer in the capacity of regular people to do what they need to do without external spurs to action. Besides acting locally, Redmond emphasized getting practical results out of her food organizing efforts. She does not think of the grocery store as part of an “alternative” food system. That rhetoric, Redmond believes, is too tied into the notion of a sustainable system as a bought item, accessible only to the wealthy.
“People already are hungry in the conventional food system. In an alternative system,
I don’t know if they’ll get more,” Redmond said. “Sustainable for whom? Those are the things that worry me. Right now sustainable foods is predicated on Whole Foods.”
“We should consume sustainable—I buy organic —but I can’t put up with overthrowing the current system unless we can ensure everyone is treated fairly.”