As civil unrest continues to grow in Chicago following the death of George Floyd, a group of Chicago teens is fighting for social justice in a West Side food desert.
By the Hand Club for Kids—a non-profit organization that empowers underserved communities—launched an initiative to transform a previously looted liquor store into a pop-up fresh food market, reports Block Club Chicago.
Led by young men and women from Chicago’s Austin community, the project is a result of the residents’ frustration at the lack of healthy food resources in the area. When offered to attend a roundtable event to air their grievances, local kids were activated to create substantial change in their neighborhood.
“What I heard coming out of that was that students wanted to take all those raw and powerful emotions and turn them into something good and do something from a social justice standpoint,” said Donnita Travis, executive director of the group. “The kids took the idea and ran with it.”
The aim of the market is that it will not only bring good-quality food to the urban area but also become an educational and entrepreneurial space.
In partnership with incubator The Hatchery Chicago, By the Hand will develop a curriculum to teach the youth about running a business, such as licensing and customer service. The Hatchery will also create culinary programs for the kids interested in entering the food industry.
“We would have fresh fruits and vegetables, but it would also be a place where people feel safe and want to hang out,” Travis said. “We could have some music and maybe we can do some healthy cooking and nutrition demonstrations and education because not everyone knows or appreciates nutrition.”
Professional sports players and executives donated $500,000 to demolish the store and transform it into a resource for the community. Those who have been instrumental include NFL’s Sam Acho, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, and St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell were also on hand to help kick-off the two-week demolition.
After the demolition, the pop-up market is slated to open in Augst and will allow youth to work a few days per week with pay.
“This is a real entrepreneurship opportunity for them, but also an opportunity for them to bring food justice to our neighborhood,” Travis said.