Urban Growers Collective worked with our partners to coordinate a community based emergency food response. As of July 30th, 8,816 boxes of produce and 13,705 prepared meals, totaling over 150,000 lbs of produce, have been delivered to over 25 partner organizations to distribute to individuals and households in need.
Multiple funders supported our Squad approach which activates on-the-ground collaborations (“squads”) to directly support primarily BIPOC led organizations, businesses, and communities to safely grow, process, prepare, distribute, and high quality nutritious meals and produce boxes to community members. Unlike other approaches, like the USDA Farmers to Family Food Box Program, the Squad approach meets the immediate needs of the community while also building capacity for organizations to scale up their enterprises to potentially meet institutional food opportunities.
Urban Growers Collective initially started with outreach to our Fresh Moves Mobile Market pop-up farmers’ market site partners. These organizations include health centers, schools, senior centers, and other social service agencies. Our partners collected information from the people they served to identify individuals and households most at need. Many of the people identified fall into demographics that are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, including individuals with disabilities, medically fragile individuals, individuals or families experiencing homelessness or who are unstably housed, homebound individuals, aging adults, undocumented individuals, individuals who have had contact with the justice system, and domestic violence survivors.
The Fresh Moves Mobile Market typically serves between 10-15 partner sites that include community centers, health centers, senior homes, and centers for accessing social services.
As we transitioned into emergency food distribution, our produce donations are distributed weekly to over 2000 residents at our partner sites including Claretian Associates senior home in South Chicago, Thresholds Rowan Trees, Thresholds South, UChicago Comprehensive Care Program, Martin Luther King Community Center, Trina Davila Community Services Center, and Howard Brown Health.
Urban Growers Collective has partnered with food businesses that are Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC) operated. These partnerships provide the culturally appropriate, nutritious meals to feed individuals and families in need. These meals are especially important in providing food to those who are not able to prepare food due to homelessness status, culinary skill, or time constraints. Our three prepared food partners are:
- ChiFresh Kitchen launched on May 11, 2020, and is a worker cooperative owned by formerly incarcerated folks—primarily Black women—from the South and West sides of Chicago. They offer fresh, wholesome, culturally relevant meals to Chicagoland institutions.
- Cooperativa Visionarias is an immigrant woman-run catering cooperative on the Southeast side of Chicago. They cater for community events, non-profits, city offices, fairs and many more across Chicago. Las Visionaries were incubated by Centro de Trabajadores Unidos (the United Workers Center, CTU), an immigrant and workers rights organization also local to the Southeast side.
- Majani is a vegan restaurant & catering service dedicated to building and nourishing community through innovative plant based cuisine. Majani bases their soulful vegan cuisine in the Pullman and South Shore neighborhoods, and began prepared meal donations June 20th.
To supplement our farm produce, Urban Growers Collective also partnered with Midwest Foods, a woman-owned, family-run produce distributor located in the Brighton Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois and we are proud to play our part in supporting American agriculture as an essential part of the food supply chain. We work with a variety of growers, small and large scale, here in the Midwest and nationwide.