ENGLEWOOD — Volunteers working with a Chicago Lawn-based Muslim organization are spending a month of fasting by promoting healthy food options at South Side corner stores.
During the month of Ramadan, which ends July 28, when most Muslims must not eat or drink while the sun is up, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network is handing out mixed fruit smoothies in front of two Muslim-owned corner stores to anyone walking by.
The hope is once residents have smoothies in hand during the group's Refresh the 'Hood initiative, they would be willing to talk, listen and fill out surveys about food shopping habits and options.
"They only shop at these stores by default," said Shamar Hemphill, a Hyde Park resident who serves as the network's director of youth and organization. "It's the only place here they can buy groceries. We need to work to make these businesses better."
Hemphill joined about a dozen people from the network as they talked to Englewood residents outside of A Lot to Save at 1207 W. 63rd St. last week.
The effort is part of the organization's Muslim Run initiative, which started in 2007 and targets everyone, not just Muslims. That initiative aimed to support businesses by improving the food they sell. Instead of just selling things like Cheetos, pork rinds and pop, the stores make it a point to sell produce, some of which is locally grown.
Those vegetables and fruits are sold at a subsidized price.
"This empowers the stores and the residents," Hemphill said. "It helps both with providing healthy options and help build communities through business."
Already working with 15 stores on the South and Southwest sides, the network is working with five new stores this year, including A Lot to Save, which recently added mushrooms, cabbage and carrots to its inventory.
Ernie Barnes is a 34-year-old regular at the store about a half-mile from the site of a planned Whole Foods Market. He grabbed a smoothie Thursday from the group's table and said such efforts to provide healthy food options in his neighborhood were encouraging.
"This kind of thing helps everyone get a lot better," Barnes said. "I'm glad I'm not the only one to know that God is good and that there are people out there to lift others up."
The network will be at Mali Mart in West Englewood, 1659 W. 69th St., from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday and July 22. It will be at A Lot to Save again from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday and July 27.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: