City of Chicago Selects Initial Round of Community Growers Program Awardees
Program to increase the access of fresh, healthy, and affordable food through urban farming
Elisa Sledzinska 312.744.1973 Elisa.Sledzinska@cityofchicago.org
CHICAGO – Today, Mayor Brandon Johnson, the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), and nonprofit urban land trust organization, NeighborSpace, alongside a collective of organizations (Chicago Food Policy Action Council (CFPAC), Community Food Navigator, DePaul Steans Center, Grow Greater Englewood, Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Urban Growers Collective, and Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest), have announced the first round of awardees for the City’s Community Growers Program. The eighteen awardees selected will increase equitable community-access to healthy foods by creating new food access points in neighborhoods experiencing food insecurity. This round of Community Growers Program awardees includes existing urban agriculture initiatives and experienced growers looking to establish new urban agriculture sites. Community Growers Program first round recipients include:
- Contemporary Farmer, Inc
- Fresher Together
- Kuumba Tre-Ahm Community Garden
- Finding Justice A Flower and Vegetable Garden
- Milpa Mizan
- Mollie's Market Garden LLC
- North Lawndale Greening Committee and The Farm 2 Table Pipeline project
- Otis Farm Stand Worker Cooperative
- Patchwork Farms
- South Shore Community Farm
- Stalwart Market, Inc.
- Getting Grown Collective
- The Salaam Community Health & Wellness Center/Eat to Live Garden
- The Seed Keepers Collective and The Green Lots Project
- UNION Impact Center
- We Sow We Grow
- What's Growing On
- Wood St Collective
“For too long, Chicago has faced longstanding inequalities in how residents access nourishing and affordable foods,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson. “I'm grateful for the advocacy of local food entrepreneurs across the city who are developing innovative solutions to increase food access, while also generating wealth for their communities. Through the Community Growers Program and its awardees, the City is reducing barriers for urban agriculture and advancing food equity by investing in community driven solutions and increasing access to local produce."
“In every community of Chicago, there should be access to food that is healthy, affordable, and sustainable,” said BACP Commissioner Kenneth J. Meyer. “The Community Growers Program grantees will receive support and infrastructure to become entrepreneurs serving the needs of their communities. This program is an example of an ecosystem that supports businesses, workers, and consumers.”
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the food inequality issues experienced by many in low-tomoderate income neighborhoods and highlighted the need for additional space and resources to expand community growing capacity. The Community Grower’s Program, designed in partnership with the City of Chicago Food Equity Council, is a $2 million investment in urban agriculture with the goal to increase food equity in communities with a history of disinvestment by encouraging the development of urban agriculture sites by local growers. This support for urban agriculture in communities with limited food access will provide residents more options for accessing fresh produce, while also creating wealth-building opportunities for growers.
The Community Grower’s Program will provide awardees with financial and technical support for existing urban agriculture sites, in addition to the development of urban gardens and farms on vacant lots, with a goal of increasing availability of and access to healthy food in communities facing high levels of food insecurity. As the lead delegate agency of the Community Growers Program, NeighborSpace will provide infrastructure to the project sites, understand the specific needs of each project site, and provide the appropriate guidance. Through the Community Growers Program, the awardees will be growing produce that will be available for purchase on-site and at local farmers markets, helping make fresh food more accessible in communities with limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.
“This is one of the largest investments that the City of Chicago has made in urban agriculture. It shows that urban agriculture is a permanent part of our urban fabric.” said Ben Helphand, Executive Director of NeighborSpace. “This program will contribute to the health and well-being of our communities at the neighborhood scale. It will also provide local entrepreneurs an entry point and foothold to start their enterprises and small businesses.”
“For far too long, areas of Chicago have had a drought of food not only in quality as well as in quantity. I am grateful to the Chicago Community Growers Program to help me bring of healthy fresh food options to my community,” said Felicia Kimbers, Executive Director of Stalwart Market, Inc. “With the help of this program, the barriers can finally be removed from communities that have been referred to as food deserts. Now I can not only share my expertise and experience with the current and next generation but also help enrich the land for the future.”
“The Chicago Community Growers Program will help create urban agriculture opportunities for youth and families in Back of the Yards,” said America Campos, Executive Director of UNION Impact Center. “It is our collective responsibility to foster environments that can nurture our physical and mental health, especially in neighborhoods that have been historically disinvested in. This program will be key to the success of our efforts.” A second round of applications for the City’s Community Growers Program will be released in Autumn 2023. The Community Growers Program is part of the Chicago Recovery Plan, the City’s plan to create an equity-based investment strategy to catalyze a sustainable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Holistic investment in communities and industries hardest hit by the pandemic is paramount towards supporting equitable economic recovery across the city. To learn more about the Community Growers Program and BACP’s Recovery Plan efforts, please visit Chicago.gov/BACPRecoveryPlan.