Established with $37,500 grant from Aetna Better Health® of Illinois
One in five households in the Chicago metro area experiences food insecurity, including one in four families with children, according to Northwestern University economists.
To help bring healthy food options to residents on the southside of Chicago, the Paradise Garden Food is Medicine Project recently debuted its Eat to Live Urban Farm located at 609 E. 67th Street. The farm was established with a $37,500 donation from Aetna Better Health of Illinois®, a CVS Health® company (NYSE: CVS).
“This generous donation from Aetna helps us breathe new life into 67th Street,” said Dr. Larry Muhammad, Ed.D., manager, Eat to Live Urban Farm/Paradise Garden Food is Medicine project. “Not only are we giving residents the opportunity to have access to fresh vegetables, but we’ve also opened a soul food restaurant, laundromat, medical center and will be creating an educational center soon. We’re excited to revamp 67th Street into an oasis where residents can thrive.”
“Access to nutritious foods is key to maintaining one’s health and aligns with our objective to improve overall health of our communities,” said Rushil Desai, CEO, Aetna Better Health of Illinois. “At Aetna, we invest in urban farms who provide locally grown produce to communities with less access to grocery stores and produce markets. Additionally, these farms provide employment training opportunities for people to work on the farm and develop valuable job skills.”
The produce at the Eat to Live Urban Farm will be available for purchase and used to create soul food dishes at the nearby Let’s Eat to Live restaurant.
“It’s refreshing to know that I can go just down the block to pick my greens and other vegetables to prepare delicious meals right here in my restaurant for the community to enjoy,” said Carmella Coq’mard Muhammad, owner of Let’s Eat to Live. “I am so excited to share in this urban farm and grateful for donors like Aetna who are helping us bring a resurgence to 67th Street.”
During the family friendly grand opening, participants experienced a farmer’s market complete with a healthy cooking food demonstration with samples, several activities geared towards children like face painting, growing home herb gardens and free books on eating healthy – all courtesy of Aetna Better Health of Illinois.
Spearheaded by Kurt Cargle, the Paradise Garden Food is Medicine Project has plans to extend the amenities of 67th Street. In addition to establishing the urban farm and Let’s Eat to Live restaurant, the street is also home to Your Neighborhood Laundromat, Salaam Community Wellness Center and Genius Education & Innovation Centers where children can learn entrepreneurial skills.
“My vision started with Your Neighborhood Laundromat, the first new business to open here on 67th Street, said Cargle founder of Your Neighborhood Community Development Corporation – the charitable arm behind the Paradise Garden Food is Medicine Project. “I am overjoyed with the progress that has happened and look forward to more businesses coming to our community.”
Aetna Better Health of Illinois offers access to quality, affordable health care to individuals through the state’s HealthChoice Illinois Medicaid program. The health plan serves over 420,000 members in 102 counties. For more information about Aetna Better Health® of Illinois, visit our website, www.aetnabetterhealth.com/illinois-medicaid.