JUST ROOTS: A SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEM FOR CHICAGO’S SOUTH SIDE

Together we are Growing Roots

Just Roots Chicago is a not-for-profit farm that seeks to create pathways that empower communities to develop access to local, sustainably grown fruits and vegetables. They carry out their mission through education, sustainable farming, and community building. Just Roots Chicago collaborates with schools and community organizations to provide educational programming that empowers individuals with the skills, resources, and knowledge to be sustainable gardeners and farmers. The sustainable farming operation is located on 1/4 acre of land on Chicago’s south side and uses organic practices to grow culturally relevant produce for the local community. In 2018 50% of produce grown was donated to local food pantries, soup kitchens, and churches. The other 50% was sold at local farmers’ markets and households through our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Just Roots knows they cannot create a sustainable food system on their own. That is why they build partnerships with individuals, organizations, and businesses committed to grassroots community development and strive to together increase social and economic opportunities for community members. For instance, middle school students from the community have come to the farm and planted tomatoes, onions, and peppers that they started as seedlings. They then were able to harvest vegetables from these same plants and donate them back into their community. Over 4000 lbs of Just Roots Chicago’s produce was donated to food pantries and soup kitchens located within 5 miles of the farm. The families that receive food from these organizations were able to have access to fresh, locally grown food, which is not always readily available to them.

With the help of the award money that Just Roots received from Unilever, they will be able to farm an additional 1/4 acre of land in 2019. This extra land will help toward the goal of growing and donating over 8000 lbs of food in 2019. Just Roots will be partnering with additional food pantries with the goal of providing twice as much fresh produce to more individuals and families on the south side of Chicago. In addition to growing more food, the award money will help fund a new education initiative: two 8-week educational programs in sustainable urban gardening to members of the community. These sessions will provide the knowledge and hands-on experience for individuals to be able to grow their own food in their homes and backyards.