Food processing, manufacturing no longer major way of life in Chicago

Chicago’s skyline looking north is visible from a window of the Sears Skydeck.  – 

A job isn’t always just a job – sometimes it is a way of life. This story is part of a series exploring what it means when jobs define several generations and are part of the very fabric of a community.

Over the years, Anthony Jackson has baked just about every Nabisco snack familiar to American pantries: Saltine Crackers, Ritz Crackers, Honey Maid Graham Crackers and of course, Oreo cookies. 

“Actually I worked every department except sanitation. I worked in the packing department. I worked as an icer mixer. I’ve worked on the bake floor,” said Jackson, who earned $26 an hour working at the Chicago Nabisco plant until he was pink-slipped in 2016. 

He was part of an ingrained tradition of Chicago food workers who held good jobs, were able to buy a house and perhaps send their children to college.

But in recent years, both Chicago and the state of Illinois have lost multiple food manufacturers, and the jobs they provided, including a General Mills and a Tyson Foods plant.

In 2000, the state had more than 47,000 food manufacturing jobs. That number has since dipped by the thousands.

“We were always thought of as a working-class city, a city with broad shoulders,” Jackson said.

Nabisco stopped making Oreos at the Chicago plant last year and moved hundreds of jobs to Mexico because parent company Mondolez wanted to invest in an upgraded facility there. 

Oreo isn’t the only food to leave the city. On the West Side, the smell of…

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