Chicagrow by Kaleia Maxey and Sabine Ramirez

Grade: 12th

View the Chicagrow submission video here.

Through our participation in our community organization, Chicago Scholars, we were given the opportunity to create a community capstone project that aligned with the mission of catering to the people of the world and our city. We would love to share our initiative to deal with a very pressing health and low-income community issue we found in our local neighborhoods of Chicago with you and Chicago Scholars.

 Low-income neighborhoods of Chicago need a way to reduce the number of food deserts by allowing access to healthier affordable and accessible food options. Our community-based organization, Chicagrow, accomplishes this by flipping vacant lots in the city of Chicago to provide local community gardens that offer nutritious food options. We plan to recruit the help of city officials, local people, and organizations of the city to invest in the lives of the people who are suffering the most from the lack of healthy food options.

Residents of the South and West sides of Chicago find it common to not have access to local supermarkets that provide a more diverse selection of food. Convenient stores such as 7/11 or gas stations are within a radius, which is more favorable for residents of Chicago rather than traveling more than 12 miles to shop at a market.

We decided to focus on a specific neighborhood of Chicago that was suffering the most from food deserts, high percentages of low-income families, and health issues. Englewood happened to mark all these specifications. While investigating the demographics of Englewood we quickly realized that it was home to the highest number of vacant lots coming in at 1,619 and West Englewood closely following with 1,088 vacant lots. Through resources such as Chicago's $1 Lot Program and potential partners like Gardens and Urban Grower's Collective, Chicagrow will allow creating a healthy community amongst neighbors. Completely reimagining these lots into gardens to feed the local people for free does not only deal with our target issue but also is targeting the detriments of toxins in our environment, the beautification of low-income neighborhoods, and the culture of our city.

Project Team: Kaleia Maxey (12th Grade, Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences) and Sabine Ramirez (12th Grade, Epic Academy)