Chicago Identifies 5 Food Equity Priorities

Last month, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot named Ruby Ferguson as the City of Chicago’s first Food Equity Policy Lead. Ferguson will work with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and report jointly to the Mayor’s Policy Office and the Food Depository to promote collaboration among members of the City’s Food Equity Council. 

“Ruby is an exceptional food and health equity champion whose talents and expertise are exactly what our city needs during this time of recovery and opportunity,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “The pandemic has laid bare the many inequities that exist within our city, with food insecurity and historic disinvestment being among the most pressing. Equitably enhancing our city’s food assets and ecosystem thus provides an important opportunity for us to address socio economic issues across our city and Ruby is truly the perfect person to help us accomplish this mission.” 

Ferguson defines food security as the ability to have agency or choice in consuming healthy and affordable foods. In late 2020, the Chicago Food Equity Agenda, found that 19% of people in the Chicago metro region faced food insecurity, with higher percentages in the Latino (29%) and Black (37%) communities. 

The city has identified five priorities for 2021 as part of the city’s Food Equity Agenda: 

  • eliminate barriers to food pantry expansion; 
  • market and maximize nutrition programs and benefits; 
  • leverage city and institutional procurement to support local black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) growers, producers, and food businesses; 
  • eliminate barriers to urban farming; 
  • and support BIPOC food business and entrepreneurs.

“To me what food equity looks like is not us as a food equity council prescribing a solution for communities, but I see it as responding to the needs of communities and giving opportunities that are sustainable over time,” Ferguson said.