“Get Fresh” Supports Local Urban Farm Project
October 04, 2012
By Ashley Hofmann, HSC public policy intern
Ashley Hofmann is completing the final practicum to earn her Masters of Social Work from the University of Missouri. Her academic research focuses on disparities in access to health care and how policy can act as a catalyst for social justice.
So many causes, so few resources! That’s how I feel about the complex issues facing our society and why I was so thrilled to learn about a new initiative from Heartland Human Care Services (HHCS) that aims to fix three problems with one program. Working with the City of Chicago, NeighborSpace, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD), HHCS has developed Chicago FarmWorks, an urban farm located in East Garfield Park that will:
- increase the supply of fresh, locally-grown produce to area food pantries
- provide job training and income to residents with multiple barriers to employment
- transform vacant lots into productive green space.
This innovative project will create transitional job positions – an HHCS model that combines four days of training through work experience on the farm in conjunction with one day of contextualized literacy each week. Participants will learn new skills for the green economy and be eligible to receive a certificate of job readiness from Wilbur Wright College. The participants earn a real wage, contribute income taxes, and support the economy with their purchasing power. After the 12 weeks, the participants receive support finding permanent employment.
HHCS estimates that 24,000 pounds of produce will be grown in the first year. This produce will be purchased by the GCFD at wholesale prices and distributed to low-income communities through their network of 650 partner agencies and food pantries. This is an important service because many residents living in Chicago’s “food deserts” cannot buy produce at neighborhood stores and may not have access to farmer’s markets. Getting fresh produce into homes is an important step in reversing the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and many other diet-related diseases that disproportionately affect low-income families.