The Urban Growers Collective, (UGC) has shifted to emergency food distribution to shelters and health centers and created no-contact produce pick-up on their South Side Chicago Farm.
The switch to COVID emergency response was challenging yet familiar to UGC as they were already doing the work. UGC is the leader in urban agriculture on the South Side. Its mission is to combat systemic injustices and break economic patterns through their ancestral roots of farming and positively influence food-deprived neighborhoods in Chicago’s south and west side communities.
“We pivoted our programs and started an online store and emergency food distribution system,” says Erika Allen, co-founder, and CEO of operations of UGC. Not just any online ordering system but one that recirculates dollars to help those in need have fresh produce.
In a conversation with The Defender, Erika tells us that most of their customers have snap benefits. When they first started the emergency system, they could not use their snap card for online ordering, so UGC had to improvise.
“Most of us have access to a credit card or debit card to order online, but many of our customers do not. You have to be present to swipe a snap card. We decided to take the money that they would have spent and donated it to our partner sites, so we just recirculated dollars.”
UGC wanted to make sure all food was utilized, and everyone had food access, especially senior citizens, who were the most vulnerable. At the same time, they had the opportunity to fund through the community’s participation by giving those funds directly to their partner sites including Claretian Associates senior homes in South Chicago, Thresholds Rowan Trees, Thresholds South, UChicago Comprehensive Care Program, Martin Luther King Community Center, Trina Davila Community Services Center and Howard Brown Health.
As of last week, they have donated over 1800 meals a week for 12 weeks partnering with organizations like ChiFresh Kitchen, a new worker-owned coop that’s run by formerly incarcerated, primarily black women.
“It was essential for us not only to meet the short-term emergency need but also to support and provide support and revenue to these new entities that are people of color lead businesses that need to be supported.”
How can we help UGC continue to support our communities?
Erika says the best way to help is by coming to the farm and purchasing food they have on-site.
Other ways to help:
- Subscribe to their community box, which is an affordable weekly subscription box program.
- Volunteer on the farm
- Get a community plot on the farm and grow food
“We’re a collective, and everybody grows a little bit to help their own but also to share with others and build a community which is a big part of our mission. Just being able to be together doing productive things that are directly related to the benefit and well-being of others”.
- Follow them on social media
You can find out more about UGC, donate, and volunteer by visiting their website: urbangrowerscollective.org.
Christa Carter-Williams is a party and family writer and creator of thewilliamsparty.com. Connect with her over on Instagram @thewilliamsparty