On a frigid January morning, residents of Marshall Square, an enclave of Southwest Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, set out on a mission to improve their community’s health.
With clipboards in hand, the volunteers, led by United Way of Metro Chicago’s community partner Marshall Square Resource Network, were trained to assess the walkability of their streets in preparation for next week’s formal study.
“We realize our streets aren’t the best places for our children to be,” said Jennifer Idrovo, the Neighborhood Network director of MSRN. “In order to promote a healthy lifestyle, we have to make them safe.”
In addition to poor eating habits and the high price of healthy foods, a neighborhood’s poor walkability and limited access to safe outdoor space can contribute to childhood obesity, a problem too many children in Marshall Square face.
Situated between North and South Lawndale, Little Village is home to a large Hispanic community, vibrant Mexican culture and one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the city.
About 32 percent of its kids are overweight or obese. That’s twice the national average.