A Leadership Program Is Helping Chicago Teens Bring Food to Their Community (Chicago Housing Authority)

Date Published: 
September 12th, 2019

From the Urban Institute:

Altgeld Gardens, a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) development, is an isolated community on the far south side of the city and is home to nearly 1,500 families. But it doesn’t have a single grocery store.

Within the past year, the only two food outlets in the community—a convenience store called Up Top and a small grocery outpost called Rosebud—closed, leaving residents with few options. The nearest fresh food retailer is a Walmart four miles up the highway—nearly twice as far as most people have to travel for groceries. Shoppers without cars are left to rely on taxis, friends and family, the city bus system, which requires three buses and takes over an hour, or the CHA bus that runs once a week. The only other option is a food pantry organized by the Local Advisory Council once a month.

Like others in the community, 20-year-old Elven Pickens and his family relied on Rosebud and Up Top for food, so the store closures were devastating. Pickens said the community is hurting, not just because Up Top provided food staples, but also because it served as a hub for residents to gather. “The store there was the center of the Gardens, the center of Altgeld. It’s where people came to, involved one another,” he told us.

The community’s only two food options closed while Pickens helped lead a group of Altgeld teens through the Teen Food Literacy Program. They used lessons from the program to coordinate a monthly food distribution event in their community, providing up to 125 families with fresh produce and other food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The tactics these teens and the program used to help young people overcome stigmas around food insecurity and access fresh food could be replicated in other places where young people struggle with food insecurity.

Read the Urban Institute's article "A Leadership Program Is Helping Chicago Teens Bring Food to Their Community," featuring the Chicago Housing Authority.

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