Staffers on Showtime’s ‘The Chi’ should know discarding food in a food desert is insensitive
Content creators struggle with striking a balance between honest, nuanced portrayals and maintaining consumers’ attention while telling human stories. However, members of a Westside of Chicago neighborhood complained to local media when filming for the upcoming Showtime drama series The Chi included a set with a fictitious corner store, which contained actual food and household goods that staffers discarded after filming, in a food scarce community.
“It is so shameful that a company like this is profiting off of a show about the hardships and struggles […] living individuals face living in Chicago,” Jayleen Sandoval, who lives in the neighborhood where filming occurred, reportedly wrote on Facebook. “It is even more shameful that the company failed to recognize that all the food and items they simply tossed could have been donated to the numerous shelters around the Chicagoland area INCLUDING the South Side.”
Kimberly Camacho, a college student who lives close to the set, told DNA Info it pained her to see how The Chi staff disposed of items ranging from canned tuna to diapers to condoms to sponges.
“It felt like they just got what they wanted and left,” Camacho said. “I felt insulted.”
DNA Info chronicled how difficult, financially and practically, finding food is for many people in the area. Given these challenges, community members took turns dumpster diving to salvage food and goods after filming concluded recently.
If The Chi continues, and other shows similarly premised, then staffers should work out logistics to help the communities in which they work. Whether the staff did not resolve liability issues relative to giving away food or simply thought it not cruel to dispose of people’s necessities amidst a community in need, the competing realities of food scarcity and American food waste exist.
The United States Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as “a low-income census tract where either a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.” In 2015, the USDA established the first domestic food loss and waste goal. The goal is 50 percent reduction by 2030.