“The Gresham Experiment, Part I” is the penultimate strip in Ladydrawers’ “Growing Season” series investigating food policy, race and public health in comics form. It’s a story that hits close to home for Anne Elizabeth Moore, who lives just a mile or so south of the Auburn Gresham neighborhood in Chicago. Sheika Lugtu doesn’t live too far away either, so together we took an in-depth look at food options in Gresham, described as one of Chicago’s many “food deserts” due to the scarcity of grocery stores. It’s also considered one of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods – and these two descriptions are not unrelated.
As comics journalists, our reporting process involved meandering the long blocks between Gresham’s food outlets, play areas and schools, and sketching what we encountered around us – including not only the understocked meat counters of the local food market but also the sites of gang violence.
The ethics of comics journalism are complex, particularly when addressing issues of structural violence and failed city food policies. Gresham residents face a daily lack of nutritional resources and local, acute violence – but how to picture it? And how to picture it fairly? (One of the few grocery stores accessible from Gresham is the one Moore shops at every week, so we can’t pretend that these issues are in any way remote from the reporters’ daily concerns.)
This first strip in our series of two presents issues of food access in Gresham. The next strip, the final in our “Growing Season” series, will uproot the links between food policies and street violence. As always, you can read all four seasons of Ladydrawers’ strips here, or catch up on our most recent strip with Laura Ķeniņš, “What’s in a Name?” – on the mysterious illness affecting workers of color in a hog-processing plant – here. Sheika Lugtu’s last strip for us looked at how the most popular drug in the world, Humira, is afflicting people with a disease, lupus, which disproportionately harms women of color.
1. “Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago,” Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group (July 18, 2006), 6. (accessed December 29, 2015).
2. Ibid, 17.
3. “Mayor Emanuel Announces Release of Food Desert Data and New Interactive Efforts to Combat Food Deserts in Chicago,” Mayor’s Press Office (August 27, 2013). (accessed December 29, 2015).
4. “Examining the Impact,” 20.
5. Ibid, 26.
6. “Are You an Auburn Gresham Parent?” Auburn Gresham Portal (September 14, 2015). (accessed December 31, 2015).