Remembering Grand Opening of Chicago’s First Steak ‘n Shake Location

By Francis Parco

As one of my favorite moments from late 2018, I covered the grand opening of Chicago’s first ever Steak ‘n Shake location.  While nearby Chicago suburbs like Evanston already has Steak ‘n Shake, the city of Chicago received theirs on September 20, 2018. The location is at UIC campus’s University VIllage at 1322 S. Halsted Street.

Since this Steak ‘n Shake location has been operating for over a year, only time will tell if the city of Chicago will see more Steak ‘n Shake locations in the future.

Customers line up in front of Steak ‘n Shake. Photo taken by Francis Parco
Front counter of Steak ‘n Shake. Photo taken by Francis Parco

The Prevalence of Obesity Among Children and Adults in Chicago

By Fernando Mendez and Francis Parco

Photo by US Department of Agriculture via Creative Commons

Esther Aguilar was obese in her 20s and recalled feeling depressed and tired for her weight. For her, this was caused by the inability to make food at home and having to eat out.

“I was not feeling good and was tired. I was depressed because I was overweight that it got to the point where you don’t care anymore. I’m already fat, you know.”

Esther explains that it was poor habits of eating unhealthy foods and being unable to cook that caused her obesity at a young age. It was not until she changed her lifestyle around her 30s where she was able to get on track to a healthier life. It was a combination of making healthy eating choices and more exercise that she was able to exclude herself from the list of those obese in the United States. However, that’s not the case for everyone.

Aguilar was one of millions of Americans dealing with obesity. It impacts 39.8% of adults in 2016 and 18.5% for children in 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity has become a national epidemic and it is no different in Chicago. The city covers a relatively large area of Cook County, which has an obesity rate of 25.3%. That is furthermore compared to the other Chicago metro area counties of DuPage and Lake, both of which have a 23% obesity rate, according to the official Lake County website.

This is especially problematic for the youth as the amount of children obese at a young age has steadily increased. According to the CDC, the obesity rate among 2-19-year-olds has steadily been increasing from 13.9% in 1999-2000 to 18.5% in 2017.

According to Rosa Ramirez Richter, Director of Chicago Programs and Policy for Healthy School Campaign, unhealthy habits can start at a young age due to a lack of healthy food or opportunities for physical activities. One way to change these habits is through school.

“When we think of a healthy school environment, it’s not only the air that the students are breathing, but it’s also the food they’re eating, the opportunities that they get to practice these behaviors whether it’s practicing being physically active or learning about what good nutrition looks like,” said Rosa Ramirez. 

But some schools don’t offer that healthy environment. Eulalia P. Abril, associate professor from the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said she was caught off guard when she learned about vending machines in schools. 

“I was really shocked when I came to the US,” she said. “I’m originally from Catalonia, and when I came to the US and I saw vending machines in schools, that I thought that was crazy. I am shocked that lawmakers have not banned completely, vending machines from grade schools, middle schools, I would even argue, high schools.”

The unhealthy environments have harsh consequences in Chicago Public Schools.

“Forty-three percent of CPS students are considered overweight or are already obese, and that’s frightening,” Ramirez said. “When you start looking at that data even closer, it’s like one in five kindergarteners are coming in already overweight and obese.”

In 2010-2011, Kindergarteners in CPS had an obesity rate of 36.5% while ninth grade was 44.7% and sixth grade 48.6%.

Abril explained that with the prevalence of unhealthy foods, it’s more likely that more students will lean toward them. 

“When you provide more healthy foods than unhealthy ones, students choose healthy foods,” Abril said. 

This also applies to UIC, as Abril noticed that vending machines at the east campus of UIC have as much as 87% unhealthy snacks. She also recommends that there should be about 50% to 70% healthy foods compared to the amount of their unhealthy counterparts.

Abril noticed that vending machines at the east campus of UIC have as much as 87% unhealthy snacks. Photo by Fernando Mendez

“So that’s when you need any intervention of some sort of somebody who says no, you have to have at least 50% or 60 or 70% healthy foods, you know, compared to unhealthy ones.”

Abril says that with more unhealthy options than healthy ones, students are more inclined to pick unhealthy options more easily. 

Ramirez says there is a link between healthy between a child’s development and educational achievement. In a CDC report, evidence linked unhealthy diets to lower grades and confirmed physical activities to better grades. 

The prevalence of obesity among children has also lead to early health problems that usually wouldn’t be seen until later in life. 

Every year the Healthy Schools Campaign hosts a yearly parent leadership institute. This event brings parents from about 50 different schools across Chicago to learn about the importance of student health and to train up-and-coming leaders.

Ramirez recalls from their parent Leadership Institute,

“One of the parents had shared how she had to attend her nephew’s funeral,” she said. “He was 19 and had a heart attack. He was obese, struggled with weight, had high blood pressure, and had a heart attack”

Ramirez’s organization, the Healthy Schools Campaign, mixes policy advocacy with ground organizing work that encourages schools to implement healthy choices. Their organization has helped encourage CPS to reach high health standards.In Chicago, those most affected by obesity tend to be people from the Hispanic and black communities. According to the Chicago Health Atlas, in Illinois, 39.3% of blacks and 37.5% of Hispanics, as well as 23.7% of whites are obese. 

Additionally, communities such as those in and around Chicago’s Austin and North Lawndale neighborhoods on the West Side, as well as neighborhoods such as Englewood on the South Side, have among the city’s poorest health outcomes, according to Professor Abril. 

These are one in many communities that are considered food deserts, neighborhoods that lack healthy food sources. These communities lack healthy resources causing many to suffer health issues. 

As the map shows, many areas in the South and West side are lacking grocery stores in their areas compared to those in the North side. This means that certain communities are lacking access to healthy foods, which can lead to major health problems.

According to the Chicago Health Atlas, communities in the South and West side have suffered more heart and diabetes-related deaths than in any other neighborhood. 

The South and West sides also have the highest rates of fast food consumption during 2015-2016, with Humboldt Park and Chicago Lawn leading their respective areas of the city with consumption rates of 15.3 and 17.6. 

As Abril said, “There needs to be more interest from whoever has the power to deliver these fruits and vegetables to these communities to make it happen.”

The Chicago Spire Site: 2005 vs 2019

Screenshot of Chicago Spire Construction site 2005 vs 2019. Credit to Google Earth, made via JuxtaposeJS

Chicago is a city famed for tall skyscrapers from the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower to the 875 North Michigan Avenue  and 311 South Wacker just to name a few. Even with the Willis Tower topping the Chicago skyline at 1451 feet since 1973, the Chicago Spire could have been the city’s next tallest building, at 2000 feet tall.

The Chicago Spire was originally planned to be built at Chicago’s DuSable Park.  In fact, 2007 marked the beginning of the building’s construction, with the foundation completed afterwards. However, the global financial crisis in 2008 changed the project forever. The Chicago Spire, to this day, remains a giant hole in the ground. Further construction on the building was canceled after the global financial crisis hit.

In recent years, various proposals have surfaced over what could replace the Chicago Spire. Among those, a pair of newer but shorter skyscrapers was proposed for construction on the site of the canceled Spire. Unfortunately, the plans were rejected. On the bright side, there’s extra time to see whether or not the new redevelopment will gain approval in 2020. Chicago has to wait until then.


Craft Brewery and Illinois: Economy By The Numbers

Among various industries that operate in and may even call the Midwestern US state of Illinois home,  the Craft Beer industry can safely say that they’re in luck. Craft Beer is a sure bet for locals residing in Illinois, especially for those who are at age 21 and above.

Production of craft beer in recent years has continued to steadily increase. In several aspects of economic impact, Illinois’s craft beer industry has received relatively high rankings compared to other states in the country. Such has been demonstrated in the impact per capita and the amount of gallons consumed by the state’s locals. Overall, denizens of the Land of Lincoln are having good times enjoying their beer.

CTA Train Lines and CPD Police Districts

Usually when it comes to Chicago’s public transportation, one may see a map of the CTA train lines paired with crime in the area. However this time, instead of crime along the CTA, the above map made with Google My Maps displays the various CTA train lines and the CPD Police districts they pass through.

The CTA Blue, Red, Orange, Red, Brown, Purple, and Pink line trains run through downtown Chicago and branch out to other parts of the city and some of the suburbs. That’s why that area of downtown Chicago is called The Loop. On the other hand, there are some police districts that the CTA does not pass through, such as District 25 that covers neighborhoods like Hermosa and Galewood.

Likewise, the south sides of the city have less police districts covered by the CTA, as well as more areas of those districts without train lines compared to other police districts throughout the city. This is especially true for the farther south ends of the city, with the Red Line ending the furthest in Chicago at the 5th and 6th district areas.  People living in the farther south side neighborhoods near the boarder to Indiana have more limited access to the Red line, likely left to drive or take any buses available to reach the train.




Google Trends: 2019 Disney Movies And Live Action Remakes

Google Trends: Star Wars vs Marvel Cinematic Universe

Disney today is a gigantic media company pumping out various movies and attracting millions of tourists to their Orlando and Anaheim theme parks, while owning two of its largest media properties in Star Wars and Marvel.  According to an analysis of Google search data, 2019 has been proving a big year for the pair of Disney properties so far, especially around the spring.

March and April were huge months, as International Women’s Day on March 8 saw the release of Marvel’s first female lead in the MCU: Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson as the titular character Carol Danvers and Samuel Jackson returning as a younger Nick Fury.

Early and mid April for Star Wars came in with Star Wars Celebration Chicago. Fans celebrated a few 20th anniversaries including that of Lego Star Wars and Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The teaser for the upcoming Rise of Skywalker movie set for Holiday 2019, The Mandalorian and Season 7 of The Clone Wars series respectively, and the upcoming Jedi Fallen Order video game were all promoted at Celebration.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe took over in late April and early May with the highly anticipated release of Avengers Endgame, helping to wrap up 11 years of Marvel movies that started with 2008’s Iron Man. As the year continued to the present, Marvel wrapped up the Infinity Saga with Spider-Man Far From Home in July, though not quite as big as Endgame in comparison, especially in Google searches.

Google Trends: Aladdin 2019 vs The Lion King 2019

Continuing with the House of Mouse, 2019 has been further defined by the year’s two most anticipated live action remakes. This Google Trends analysis goes back further to October and November 2018. At this same time last year, 2019 Aladdin’s teaser trailer dropped, taking a quick day and night look at the desert outside the city of Agrabah and a peak inside the Cave of Wonders.

The King took its turn in November as the live action Lion King was teased, narration overlooking Pride Rock in Africa provided by King Mufasa himself: James Earl Jones.  One look at Google searches shows a much larger spike by far. It’s clear at this point that The Lion King was the more anticipated Disney movie.

Matters for Aladdin didn’t help when Will Smith’s interpretation of Robin William’s Genie was revealed during early February.  Though to be fair, Disney fans also questioned 2019 Lion King’s live action movie status, as the film was considered more CGI than live action.

Yet. the script was flipped as Aladdin and The Lion Kings’ respective releases drew near. Aladdin recovered from the early news woes after arriving to theaters in late May. Overall reception was better than pre release in comparison.

The opposite also proved true for The Lion King. Despite another large spike around release in July, fan and critic reactions were disappointing. The King fell from grace this year, especially compared to the 1994 classic while Aladdin rebounded in the desert, regardless of how it compares to its respective 1992 counterpart.

11 Years of Chicago Bulls Regular Season Wins

Graphic created with Datawrapper

October is NBA Basketball month, which means a new season for the Chicago Bulls is coming around the corner.  Although the Bulls have experienced an up and down pattern for the number of wins each season during the past 11 years, they’ll be coming in to the new 2019-2020 NBA season on a low note.

The graphic above starts in the 2008 NBA season after the Chicago Bulls won the first draft pick and drafted Chicago native and future Bulls star player Derrick Rose. The Chicago Bulls held their own from 2008 to 2010, ending both seasons at just 42 wins. Soon afterwards, the Rose Era Bulls spiked during the 2010-2011 season when they lead the NBA with the best record at 62 wins out of 82 games in regular season. While the Chicago Bulls would fall to Lebron and the Miami Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, Derrick Rose still walked out as the 2011 NBA MVP, the youngest in Bulls and NBA history.

The following years would not see the Bulls reaching 62 wins again however. While earning a solid 50 wins in 2012 and retaining the NBA’s best record, any hopes of continuing a championship run was dashed after Rose suffered a season-ending injury in the Playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers, and never being his MVP self anymore.  The Bulls still competed as best as they could, gradually returning to 50 wins in 2015.

The Bulls’s season wins have been declining ever since.  The old team from 2011 and 2012 slowly broke apart in instances such as Roses’s trade to the New York Knicks during summer 2016, among other player trades and roster changes.  Chicago’s hometown team went from 41 regular season wins in 2017 down to as low as 27 and 22 wins in the following two years.  As Chicago heads into the upcoming season, only time will tell if their regular season wins will continue to drop or if a comeback will be on the way.

Chicago Cubs Fan Attendance 2007-2016

Line chart displays fan attendance of Chicago Cubs MLB Baseball games from the 2007 season to the 2016 season.

During the last decade, the Chicago Cubs Baseball team from the north side of the city didn’t experience the best of luck when it came to fan attendance to their games.  According to the line graph above, the Cubs went through a decline and rise in the number of fans watching their games.

Starting in the 2007 season, fan attendance numbers started off well at 3,252,462 people. This number continued to rise up until it peaked in 2008 at 3,300,200 fans. Following the 2008 season however, fan attendance experienced a steady decline. This decline reached it’s lowest point from the 2013 and 2014 MLB seasons, dipping around the 2,500,000 and 2,600,000 marks.

Yet, fan attendance for the Chicago Cubs rebounded after the previous two seasons. Chicago Cubs game attendance surged steadily through 2015, reaching 2,919,122 fans. Fans attendance continued it’s rise all the way to the 2016 season at over 3 million fans. The rise in attendance to this point may seem fitting, as the 2016 MLB season became a historic run for the Chicago Cubs.

The Need for a Greater Awareness of Health Centers

By Kiran Dandia and Francis Parco

The amount of adults without health insurance has increased, as shown through the fact that the percentage of people between the ages of 19-64 in the United States has been increasing since 2016. In 2016, the percentage of adults who were uninsured was 12.7% from February to April, and in 2018 the percentage of adults who were uninsured increased to 15.5%, according to The Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey.

Despite the increase in people without health insurance, there are sufficient community health centers in Chicago that are not only willing to provide free services but also assistance with finding the right insurance plan for those who are uncovered

Professionals involved in the medical field have said that they believe there are sufficient community health centers in Chicago.  Continue reading The Need for a Greater Awareness of Health Centers

10 Sites to Visit For Open House Chicago 2018

Photo by

Every October, Open House Chicago (OHC) gives locals and tourists a chance to explore various architectural sites across Chicago.  While the city already offers visitors popular tourist attractions such the Willis Tower Observation Deck, 360 Chicago, and Chicago Boat Tours, over 200 sites take part in OHC.  That’s plenty of sites for visitors to choose from. What’s even more is that many of these sites aren’t regular parts of Chicago’s tourist scenes.

In fact, many of OHC’s sites are either only accessible for workers, or not normally open to the public at all. This is one chance out of the entire year for visitors to explore sites that not everyone gets to visit everyday. From some of Chicago’s tallest buildings like the The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois to non skyscrapers like Goodman Theatre, here are 10 sites to visit during one October weekend for Open House Chicago 2018.