On a Thursday in early November, around forty people gathered at a coworking site in the West Loop to attend a “(Re)Launch” of the Ward Ambassador program run by Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA), a network that supports urban farms, gardens, and sustainable food initiatives in the Chicago region.
By now, many of us are aware of the increasing conversation around “food deserts” in Chicago and across the country. Food deserts are typically defined as low-income areas in which a significant portion of residents live a mile or more from grocery stores and supermarkets. In Chicago, the majority of food deserts are in predominantly African-American neighborhoods lacking accessibility to fresh food options, with much easier access to fast food, liquor, and convenience stores. While a great deal of the momentum that has emerged around the issue has focused on increasing food accessibility, many of these proposed solutions—including the proposal to increase grocery stores in the city—actually operate within the status quo and fail to make structural change.