A group of teenagers in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood were looking for a way to uplift their marginalized West Side community. They found it in a group for kids called By the Hand Club for Kids. Group listening circles there showed them that they were all dealing with powerful emotions and they wanted to do something positive with them.
So they decided to find something social justice oriented to put their efforts into and that’s how they ended up a group of young entrepreneurs that transformed a gutted liquor store into Austin Harvest, a pop-up food market to provide healthy food alternatives for their underserved neighborhood.
It was one of the issues the kids felt about most urgently; no one should live with a shortage of healthy food options in their area. But that was the result of years of systemic neglect and racism. Areas like Austin become classified as “food deserts,” places where groceries and fresh produce are difficult to come by even in the best of times. When the discussion turned to the idea of repurposing one of the looted properties into a much-needed community resource, the kids took the idea and ran with it.
The project got enthusiastic backing from a number of professional athletes, including former Chicago Bears’ linebacker Sam Acho, quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews, Chicago White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, and St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Together, they raised $500,000 in seed money to get the project rolling.
While By the Hand brought in architects and branding experts for guidance, the vision for Austin Harvest was shaped and implemented by its youthful participants. The kids are behind the scenes running the show. Since it was started, Austin Harvest has sprung to life.
Taking a “teach someone to fish rather than give someone a fish approach,” The Hatchery Chicago also pitched in to offer hands-on lessons in real-world business skills including licensing and customer service, as well as a culinary pathways program aimed at helping interested teens work toward careers in the food industry.
They truly are feeding the hearts, minds, and stomachs of the people. Find more in your Good News Story of the Day, and watch the video, here. While these kids have helped to provide farm fresh goodness in an inner city food dessert, they only started by trying to solve a problem their community had. An inspiring story for those with the hear to listen.
Story and Image from NBC News.