PepsiCo commits to break barriers that perpetuate Chicago’s racial and ethnic wealth inequity

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Chicago's unemployment rate has remained higher than the national average throughout the pandemic. Pic: GettyImages/Pheelings Media
Chicago's unemployment rate has remained higher than the national average throughout the pandemic. Pic: GettyImages/Pheelings Media

Related tags: Pepsico, Chicago, racial inequality, Wealth, The Chicago Community Trust

PepsiCo is building on its three decade long history with the city of Chicago by investing $1.5m towards business practices to support equitable recovery in the ‘Windy City’, which has seen unemployment rates skyrocket because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The snack giant’s investment is part of $25m in philanthropic contributions made by various corporates to support a new effort called Together We Rise, led by The Chicago Community Trust.

The multipronged initiative unites partners across philanthropy, business, government, nonprofits and communities to pool and distribute resources to build back the communities most hard hit economically by the pandemic.

Deep rooted disparities

COVID-19 has dealt the Chicago region a devastating set of interrelated health, economic and social crises.

Over a six-month period, hundreds of thousands of area jobs were lost, consumer spending dropped 43%, and more than half of temporary business closures became permanent.

The pandemic's effects particularly impacted the city's large Black and Latinx communities, where disparate economic and health outcomes were already the norm after decades of disinvestment, systemic racism, and structural inequities. According to Illinois Department of Employment Security data for July 2020, the unemployment rate for Black people was 33% higher than the rates for whites.

Without focused resources and a coordinated response, the damage to these individuals and communities – and therefore to the region as a whole – could be irreversible.

“There is no greater time than now for us to reimagine our future as we rebuild stronger by focusing on inclusive, resilient growth that places Black and Latinx communities, historically left behind, at the centre of our recovery,”​ said Helene Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust.

“As the region’s community foundation, we stand committed to working alongside diverse stakeholders to reimagine systems that perpetuate racial and ethnic wealth inequity.”

Together We Stand also align business practices that foster economic equity, including procurement and hiring commitments and other in-kind catalytic contributions, along with workforce and income supports like earned income tax credit and policies that incentivise investment in disinvested communities.

For its part, PepsiCo’s investment supports:

  • $1 million to The Hatchery Chicago to help more than 400 female small food business entrepreneurs and job seekers on the South and West Sides with microgrants and other wraparound services.
  • Extending PepsiCo’s three-year, $300,000 partnership with City Colleges of Chicago for another five years to provide scholarships and wraparound support for students seeking trade and certificate education.
  • Distributing 100,000 nutritious meals this fall and winter through PepsiCo’s Food for Good nutrition program with partners like La Casa Norte and other local nonprofits.
  • Additional commitments for Black-owned restaurants.

“COVID-19 has once again put a spotlight on the deep-rooted health and economic disparities that have long faced communities of colour,” ​said Neil Pryor, president, PepsiCo Beverages North America Central Division.

“As a member of the Chicago community for more than 30 years with deep roots here, we’re committed to support the city’s long-term recovery. PepsiCo will be investing more than $500,000 annually in neighbourhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides.

“We will also continue to do our part as a partner to these communities through service, employment, and civic engagement in the months and years ahead.”

JPMorgan Chase joins PepsiCo as anchor corporate supporter of Together We Rise, with donations coming from funders like BMO Harris Bank, Crown Family Philanthropies, Field Foundation and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, among others.

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