At Heartland Alliance, we believe in a holistic approach to ending poverty – one that requires access to quality housing, healthcare, jobs, and justice. From the locally grown produce distributed across Chicago at our local food pantries, to the job training and placement programming – our Chicago FarmWorks Urban Farm in East Garfield Park embodies that holistic approach while also bringing communities together.
It’s been a busy summer at the farm. Leaders from corporate and civic life have come together to make the FarmWorks program a hotbed of volunteerism, community activism, and revitalization. As a result, over 500 people have visited the 2-acre farm to help with everything from weeding and plot planning, to planting and tending the crops, and even preparation for harvest time and fall food-pantry logistics. This work simply couldn’t be done without the tremendous help of our individual, corporate, group, and nonprofit partners.
Conagra Brands has generously invested financial resources to help ensure the farm is working at its best capacity to increase access to the healthy, local food that individuals and families need to reach their full potential. With Conagra’s support, FarmWorks has been able to create a drip irrigation system to improve yields; build a greenhouse and other structures to start more seedlings on-site and extend the growing season; and implement a more reliable and robust vegetable transport plan for our partner pantries. Thanks to Conagra, we’ve been able to increase our yield and distribution of additional servings of vegetables for communities experiencing food insecurity. This year alone we will grow and distribute 40,000 servings of food, impacting more than 1,400 Chicagoans.
It takes a village to create such an impact, and we also couldn’t do this work without other partners like the City of Chicago, the Chicago Community Trust, and Chicago Tribune Charities/McCormick Foundation, as well as hundreds of volunteers from companies like BCG, Aon, Exelon, & Northern Trust. All have contributed hours of labor on the farm itself and invested resources to ensure the continued success of the program.
And most importantly, we couldn’t make these incredible impacts without the support, input, and hard work of the very people we serve. Heartland Alliance participants work the soil of the farm throughout the year, gaining valuable employment experience and education. We work one-on-one with the community in the constant effort to build a more-impactful program and to provide produce that the community most wants to eat. Tomatoes, hot peppers, spinach, lettuce, radishes, mustard greens, collard greens, green beans, onions, potatoes, okra, cucumbers, summer squash – we grow over 20 different types of produce, all recommended by the community itself. As a result, nearly 80% of our participants reported satisfaction with the quality and variety of the produce they received at our Vital Bridges food pantries.
And you, too, can help make an impact! Throughout the year, the Chicago FarmWorks program has monthly volunteer days where anyone can join in the fun and get their hands dirty. Check out the Heartland Alliance Facebook Page for upcoming events or learn more about FarmWorks here.