Six organizations with healthy food programs in Chicago’s Greater Englewood neighborhood have been awarded a grant of up to $8,000 from Whole Cities Foundation. Whole Cities Foundation, a nonprofit established by Whole Foods Market, partners with communities nationwide to improve community health through broadening access to fresh food and nutrition information.

“At Whole Cities we have a big vision for a nation where fresh, healthy food access and high quality nutrition information are available to everyone, no matter what your zip code,” says Executive Director, Meredith Smith. “We build partnerships with community-based, grassroots organizations that are improving health and food access in their own neighborhoods.”

The foundation teamed up with the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.), a grassroots organization that addresses community needs and creates tangible solutions, to design a grant program that extends the reach of neighborhood food access projects and fully engaged the community throughout the process.  Community-led organizations presented their food access projects to neighborhood residents, and the Greater Englewood community voted on which projects would be funded. 

Asiaha Butler, R.A.G.E. co-Founder and President, says, “Our association truly enjoyed creating this voting process, because the community had the opportunity to make the decision on who would be awarded the Whole Cities Foundation grant, which is not the typical process. The residents felt empowered that their voice was heard and honored. We look forward to future partnerships with this foundation and others who want to fund in an innovative way.”

The grant is one iteration of the Whole Foods Market’s “Community First” value, which puts the community at the forefront.

Sixteen groups applied for the grant in July. Putting the community at the center of the decision-making, R.A.G.E. assembled a Task Force of nine Englewood leaders to steer an innovative community voting process. Nine applicants were selected to move forward as finalists and participated in the community vote, bringing visibility to the fabulous work Englewood is doing for Englewood.  Finalists were determined by the sustainability of their projects and their alignment with the foundation’s mission. Throughout August, residents of Greater Englewood were able to vote for their favorite neighborhood revitalization project.

On Saturday, August 20th, the groups presented their food access initiatives at “So Fresh Saturday”; the summer park festival hosted by R.A.G.E., and had the opportunity to speak to over 1,000 residents about their projects aimed at building community and health. Residents decided on five finalists to receive the grant and a sixth were added, due to a very close vote. 

The following six projects were selected for funding:

  • Imagine Englewood If – will expand their Community Garden program in order to continue training and equipping youth with gardening and nutritional knowledge and skills.
  • Ditch the Weight and Guns – aims to place healthy food vending machines in churches, schools, businesses, and libraries throughout Greater Englewood.  
  • Southwest Federation Block Clubs of Greater Englewood – will start the Greater Englewood Community Bucket Garden Project, demonstrating how to grow fresh vegetables in small containers residents already have on hand.  
  • I Grow Chicago – has transformed an abandoned lot into a Peace Garden to increase access to fresh, healthy produce in the community and will build a hoop house to enable year-round food production.  
  • Ujamaa Community Land Trust – has created the African Garden Project (AGP) with a focus on produce based in the culture of Africa and Africans in the Americas.  Locally grown produce from Perry Ave Community Farm will continue to be sold based on the “pay what you can afford” model.
  • M.U.R.A.L. (Magnifying Urban Realities & Affecting Lives) – will expand their Mobile Markets to reach more Englewood families and provide fresh produce and recipes in more locations.

Whole Cities Foundation and R.A.G.E. announced the grant awards at the Whole Foods Market store opening in Englewood on Wednesday, September 28, 2016.

This grant was made possible by the generous donations of the following Whole Cities Foundation sponsors: Annie’s, Grimmway Farms and Stonyfield.