The City of Chicago has announced its first round of awardees for the city’s Community Growers Program. The eighteen awardees will work towards increasing equitable community access to healthy foods by creating new food access points in neighborhoods experiencing food insecurity. The awardees include existing urban agriculture initiatives and experienced growers planning to establish new agriculture sites within the city.
“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.”
The Community Grower’s Program – which was designed in partnership with the City of Chicago Food Equity Council – is a USD$2 million investment in urban agriculture. It has the goal of increasing food equity in communities with a history of disinvestment by encouraging the development of urban agriculture sites by local growers. The presence of urban agriculture in these communities with limited food access is expected to provide residents more options for accessing fresh produce, while also creating economic opportunities for growers.
The Community Grower’s Program will provide awardees with financial and technical support for existing urban agriculture sites, along with supporting the development of urban gardens and farms on vacant lots. NeighborSpace – a nonprofit urban land trust in Chicago – will provide infrastructure and guidance to the project sites. The produce grown on these sites will be available for purchase on-site and at local farmers markets.
“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.”