November 22, 2013

Mayor Emanuel and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Announce Grant Funding for Growing Power's Farmers for Chicago Program

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a $300,000 grant to Growing Power’s Farmers For Chicago Program. One of the first programs of its kind in the nation, the Farmers For Chicago Program will provide local non-profits the funding and resources to install the necessary agriculture equipment and train up to 50 local-residents in urban farming skills. The produce grown from Farmers For Chicago farms are then sold at grocery stores and farmers markets throughout the city.

“Every Chicagoan should have access to healthy food. Too many of our citizens feel the consequences of poor nutrition on a daily basis because fresh produce is not available in their neighborhood. Growing Power’s Farmers For Chicago Program works not only to bring locally grown fruits and vegetables to the shelves of our neighborhood store, but also to teach the skills to grow those fruits and vegetables in our own backyards,” said Mayor Emanuel.

The $300,000 grant awarded to Growing Power by the USDA was made possible through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Community Food Project (CFP) awards. These national awards support organizations using local food to develop community-based solutions to address food insecurity and increase access to healthy food in low income communities.

"The Community Food Projects program has demonstrated that local food can be part of a successful strategy to address hunger and increase healthy food access," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "This year's grantees continue that tradition while representing exciting innovations and ideas. I look forward to seeing how their work will support our country's farmers, expand local food opportunities, and increase healthy food access for generations to come."

Farmers for Chicago will help prepare urban growers with the skills necessary to succeed at food commerce, including growing and packaging fruits and vegetables, and distributing them to up to 20 retailers, including farmer’s markets, local corner stores, grocery chains, and restaurants.

This program will be implemented over a three year period with outcomes to include: 50 new farmers to receive direct training and farm incubation support, 150 farmers to benefit from shared infrastructure support, 1500 individuals to receive training and educational opportunities in urban agriculture via workshops offered at Iron Street Urban Farm, 900 youth are provided with meaningful work experience in urban agriculture and 30 commercial retailers and independent corner storeowners increase the availability of fresh food in their businesses.

“Today’s funding and the Farmers For Chicago Program will support Growing Powers’ ability to support the development of an urban agriculture industry that creates new farmers that produce and distribute hyper local, affordable and culturally appropriate food to families and communities in all Chicago neighborhoods,” said Erika Allen, Executive Director of Growing Power.

Additionally, Growing Power announced today that their locally grown produce is now available in 10 Chicago-based Walgreens stores. In 2011 Growing Power signed a memorandum of understanding with Walgreens to provide increased access to locally grown produce as well as economic development and employment opportunities across its farm locations in Chicago. Growing Powers’ fresh produce will be making their way into Walgreens stores in many food deserts that Chicago and its partners have placed their focus on providing access to quality food.

The fresh and healthy in-season produce to be sold at the Walgreens locations includes radishes, mustard greens, cabbage, and arugula, with salad turnips, turnip greens, beets, and kale to be available in the next couple months when they are in-season. The Walgreens stores with Growing Power produce in them are located in the city’s Belmont Central, Bronzeville, Edgewater, Englewood, Kenwood, Logan Square, Near West Side, Washington Park, and Woodlawn neighborhoods.

Opening in Chicago in 2002, Growing Power is a non-profit urban agriculture organization that works to expand urban farming networks throughout Chicago, providing equal access to high-quality affordable produce and increased economic and employment opportunities for residents in Chicago’s neighborhoods. Growing Power currently maintains and operates as five locations throughout the city: Chicago Lights Farm, Altgeld Gardens Urban Farm, Grant Park “Ant on the Farm” Urban Agriculture Potager, Iron Street Urban Farm, Jackson Park Urban and Community Allotment Garden.

Today’s announcement is another step forward in Mayor Emanuel’s ongoing commitment to improve the well-being of the residents of Chicago by creating a healthier urban environment. The Emanuel Administration has worked to develop the emerging urban agriculture sector by both addressing the workforce development needs of residents with limited work history, and bringing opportunities to food desert communities. The Administration has made an annual investment of $750,000 in transitional jobs programs with Chicago nonprofits in the urban agriculture sector. This includes support for innovative social enterprises such as Beeline Beauty Products in urban beekeeping, and Neighbor Carts, which distributes fresh produce in food deserts. These investments are intended to provide training for more than 200 hard-to-employ individuals per year – including ex-offenders and the formerly homeless, and job placement for more than 160 trainees.