Chicago Coming Together: Food Access and Education

All across Chicago, people are adjusting the way they work to come together and support each other. Organizations deliver on their missions despite the changes and challenges we face every day. Big Green is excited to collaborate and contribute with the non-profit and urban agriculture leaders in our city to help not just get through this pandemic but continue to shape the world in the image we all know it can be. In this post, we are spotlighting this amazing work. We hope you find it as helpful and inspiring as we have.

Health and Wellness Partners:

CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness

One of Big Green’s largest partners in Chicago is our school district. The OSHW brings together all the partners working in schools to support student health and wellness. During this time of distance learning, they are compiling resources to support families and teachers. They have posted a comprehensive spreadsheet that includes all the resources they have found that might be helpful to families, most of the resources on this list are also highlighted in this post.

Communities In Schools

Big Green has been working with Communities in Schools since our first Learning Gardens were built here in Chicago in 2012 and 2013. They do incredible work as a drop-out prevention organization, but they believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. So, much of their work here in Chicago supports organizations that like Big Green provide free resources to schools. They dedicate a huge amount of time to uplifting and supporting partners who’s work alongside their own supports youth to be the best they can be. They have also created an absolutely massive list of resources organized into specific tabs to support the needs of families across Chicago. This type of list can be overwhelming but we appreciate having everything we might need in one place.

Common Threads

Common Threads and Big Green have been close partners for many years and have worked together to share resources and develop curricular content that supports our work to help young people and their families learn about healthy eating and cooking. They have made many of their existing cooking and nutrition resources free during the COVID-19 crisis. We especially love their wellness classes, new video series that support physical fitness and mental/emotional health. You can find all the materials they are posting on their website.

Pilot Light

Big Green and Pilot Light have been collaborating for years to connect their great food education content to Big Green’s Learning Garden centered approach to food education. They have a new resource called the Food Education Center that features fantastic food and cooking activities that are aligned with learning standards. Families can access all the content on the Family Resources page. Teachers can access their lessons by registering on the site. https://foodedu.pilotlightchefs.org/family-resources/

The Plant

Plant Chicago is a fantastic organization. They equip people and businesses with the tools to live more sustainably through community-driven, hands-on programs, and innovative research projects. The focus of their work is to support circular economies (systems that reuse waste and other resources by cycling them to other groups that can use them benefiting all parties in the system. They are posting weekly sessions for teachers, care-givers and middle and high school students to learn about and investigate systems that support circular economies such as aquaponics, composting, and growing microgreens.

Food Access and Urban Agriculture:

City Of Chicago Grocery Store Status Map

The city of Chicago has created a searchable map that continues to be updated with current information to help people find open grocery stores near them.

CPS School Meal Sites

CPS is coordinating a massive effort to provide food to families at 270 schools across the city. All the information to locate a site near you can be found on their site.

Chicago Food Policy Action Council

CFPAC has a great website that features resources related to food access, education, urban agriculture. and policy initiatives that support a just and equitable food system. Scroll down to find the “Browse Database”┬álink to view a searchable database of food resources they have compiled.

Urban Growers Collective

Urban Growers Collective is one of the leading urban agriculture and food sovereignty organizations in the city (and the country). They excel at farmer training, land access, composting, resource sharing, food access, youth programming, and urban agriculture/food system policy activism. Visit their website to learn more about their work and to purchase farm-fresh produce and other fresh fruits and vegetables or make a donation to increase access across the city, go to their Fresh Moves site:

Chicago Farmers Market Collective

Chicago’s Farmers Markets are moving to online platforms for delivery or contactless pickup. The Chicago Farmers Market Collective is a great way to connect to the markets that are closest to where you are.

Artisan Grain Collaborative: Neighbor Loaves

Do you have access to food and are looking for a way to help support local farmers and the economy connected to grains (farmers, millers, bakers). The Artisan Grain Collective has created a program called Neighbor Loaves where you can purchase bread from a baker that will go towards feeding people struggling with food insecurity. The baker will purchase local grains supporting farmers and millers in our region and distribute the bread to local organizations helping to feed the hungry people. It’s a win-win. You can also find a list to access local farmers and millers who have whole grains and flours for sale on the site.