On March 18, 2008 I attended the 3rd Annual Chicago Food Policy Summit at the Chicago Cultural Center. For the past year I've made multiple trips to Chicago (25 miles away) for inspiration on how a large urban center is able to build stronger communities through healthy, local food initiatives. The city has a number of innovative organizations that integrate urban agriculture as a community and economic development activity. Some of these organizations work with at-risk youth or homeless adults and are teaching them gardening techniques, entrepreneurship, and increasing their self-esteem in the process.
For example, here is the working policy objectives for the Chicago Food Policy Council. Also the City of Chicago Dept. of Planning & Development is invested in integrating community food systems in their plan of action. Last year they came out with a report, "Chicago: Eat Local, Live Healthy" that looks at integrating locally grown produce and value added food products into Chicago's neighborhoods.
Overall I've been impressed with how progressive Chicago has been on this issue. Imagine if Indiana's metro areas like Gary, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, or Evansville integrated local food systems in their plan of work. What if Purdue Extension was able to think outside of the box and support programs like urban agriculture or community gardening and provide impact to those adults and youth who are at-risk.
What if ECD programs looked at local food systems as a way of developing and supporting community entrepreneurship in our urban areas as well as rural communities. We have a great opportunity to move forward in this new and exciting area. Below are some of the Chicago organizations who are doing urban agriculture in the context of community development. Some helpful links are below. Please share your thoughts with me on this issue. Email me here.Thanks.