Expert: Food deserts in black communities partly explain coronavirus vulnerability

Lack of access to healthy foods and grocery stores in impoverished communities is one reason African Americans have a higher propensity for chronic illnesses, experts say.

State data shows more blacks are contracting and dying from the COVID-19 respiratory illness due to underlying health conditions such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart and lung diseases.

“Food deserts” in urban/suburban environments and socio-economic factors play a huge role in poor nutrition, says Demetrice Burgess of Palatine, an MRI technologist at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.

“The solution to turn this around is getting proper grocery stores in (black areas), decent health care, making jobs available, educating people ... (and) teaching kids at a young age about their health,” Burgess said.

Obesity disparities: Black adults have the highest prevalence of obesity (49.6%) compared with all other races and Hispanic-origin groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity is lowest among Asian adults (17.4%) compared with whites (42.2%) and Hispanics (44.8%). Black women also have a higher prevalence of obesity than black men. Childhood obesity is more common among Hispanics (25.8%) and blacks (22%) than whites (14.1%) and Asians (11%), data shows.

Online Easter: Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, will deliver an online liturgy for Easter Sunday from Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

The Revs. Ismael Sandoval and Marek Smolka will lead the Spanish and Polish language Easter Sunday online Masses, respectively.

Masses will be televised at noon in English on ABC Channel 7, at 10 a.m. in Spanish on Univision Chicago, and at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in Polish on Polvision. WGN Radio will broadcast Easter Mass with Cardinal Cupich at 9 a.m., and simulcast at 10 a.m. on Univision Radio.

All Masses can be viewed at and on the Archdiocese of Chicago Facebook page.

Muslim convention: Rosemont again will host the largest gathering of Muslims in North America this fall.

The Islamic Society of North America's 57th annual convention returns to the region after a brief hiatus in other cities. It will be held Sept. 4-7 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road.

For more information, visit

Measuring diversity: The Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations this year will survey 37 Northwest suburban communities “to measure the growth or lack of diversity,” said Chairman Rev. Clyde Brooks of Arlington Heights.

That includes diversity in the ranks of municipal boards, police and fire personnel, and overall representation of people of color in the public sphere. The commission conducted a similar survey in 2013.

“One of my frustrations is getting government leaders to recognize the change that is happening right before their eyes, population shifts,” Brooks said. “We've been working with these communities for 50 years and there hasn't been much results. We have a lot of work to do.”

More black cops: The commission is helping recruit minority candidates for careers in law enforcement. It recently formed the Metropolitan Association of Black Law Enforcement made up of current and former police officers from suburban departments. The group will provide mentoring services and mock exercises for applicants to the ICDHR-sponsored Police Preparatory Academy.

The academy will help prepare people to pursue careers as future auxiliary, sworn, community or public service officers, fire and police commissioners, dispatchers, chaplains and interns.

Candidates must be between 18 and 35 years old, have no felony convictions, pass a drug test and have a valid driver's license and insured vehicle.

For more information, email or or call (630) 674-1153.

Implicit bias training: Social psychologist Destiny Peery will be conducting implicit bias training workshops across the suburbs for the Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations. No dates are scheduled yet.

Peery is an attorney and an associate professor at Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law. She has more than 15 years of experience conducting social science research, writing, teaching, and speaking on diversity and inclusion-related issues, as well as leading diversity and inclusion efforts.

She is a principal consultant for The Red Bee Group, a woman-owned Chicago-based firm helping leaders develop growth strategies, team engagement and risk management focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.

• Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic with Madhu Krishnamurthy at

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention graphic showing the prevalence of obesity among adults age 20 and older by sex, race and Hispanic origin derived from data collected in a 2017-18 national health survey. Courtesy of CDC
Cardinal Cupich will deliver Easter Sunday Mass online from Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. YouTube screen shot
A crowd listens to a speaker at the 2015 ISNA convention in Rosemont. Photo courtesy of ISNA
The Rev. Clyde Brooks says there is much work to be done to diversify suburban police and fire departments and municipal boards. Daily Herald file photo
Northwestern University Professor Destiny Peery will be leading implicit bias workshops across the suburbs for the Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations. Courtesy of Destiny Peery
Daily Herald Diversity Editor Madhu Krishnamurthy
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