|Lourdes Sancen and her son, Edgar, picking out produce at the Jordan Community School in Rogers Park.|
Five-year-old Edgar loves to eat corn, broccoli and carrots. “He would eat them everyday. He loves them,” said his mother Lourdes Sancen. However rising food prices, lack of transportation and a difficult job market have made it difficult for the Rogers Park mom to put vegetables on the table. “It is so expensive,” she said.
Lourdes and her son are one of 30 families – 110 individuals – taking part in a new community program aimed at increasing the amount of locally grown, fresh produce consumed by Rogers Park residents.
Funded through a grant from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the Community Shares Project is a collaboration between two Food Depository partner agencies, St. Ignatius Food Pantry and Christopher House, and the Glenwood Sunday Market, a local farmers market. Every Monday the program, which launched July 9, visits three Rogers Park elementary schools (New Field Elementary, Jordan Community School and Gale Academy) on a rotating basis, distributing produce and providing nutrition education.
|Produce is collected from farmers during the Glenwood Sunday Market and is biked to the different sites by volunteers.|
On this day at the Jordan Community School, a long table was piled high with fresh produce – bunches of carrots, cartons of tomatoes and piles of sweet corn – nearly 150 pounds in total.
“The produce comes from three local farms: Fat Blossom Farm, Midnight Sun Farm and Montalbano Farms,” said Ann Hinterman, manager of Glenwood Sunday Market. “The produce is purchased from the farmers and then distributed to the families at the different schools. So not only does this help the families but we are supporting the farmers as well.”
The program begins with a multi-lingual education program featuring nutritional information about the produce. Healthy recipes are provided to help the families prepare and enjoy locally grown, fresh vegetables and fruit.
|St. Ignatius Pantry Director Kathy Morris speaking to the families about the nutritional benefits of kale while passing around a plate for the parents and children to taste.|
Similar to the other program sites, the Jordan Community School has a 98 percent poverty rate according to Vice Principal Cindy Zucker. “These families struggle to make ends meet and this community is hurting economically. So anything we can do to fill those basic needs is a huge help,” said Cindy.
This was the second Monday that Blanca Quiroz and her four children attended the produce program at the Jordan Community School. Blanca has lived in Rogers Park for 14 years and says this new program has been a big help to her family. “The vegetables are so fresh,” she said. “The kids really like it.”
|Blanca Quiroz and her son Felipe at the Community Shares Project at the Jordan Community School.|
At the end of each event, the families walk down the produce table and pick out fresh vegetables and fruit to take home. Volunteers also hand out tokens for the families to exchange for more produce at the Glenwood Sunday Market.
“We could not have done this without the help of the Greater Chicago Food Depository,” said Kathy Morris, pantry director for St. Ignatius Food Pantry. “We are so pleased at how successful the program has been and how many families we have been able to reach.”
The Community Shares Project is funded with the grant from the Greater Chicago Food Depository and is supported by the Rogers Park Business Alliance and Ald. Joe Moore. For more information about the Community Shares Project, visit http://www.glenwoodsundaymarket.org/communityshares.htm.