Inside an Englewood hoop house, dozens of tomato plants climb about seven feet into the air. Various greens, eggplants, peppers, and more sprout from the soil around them. A few participants in Growing Home’s workforce development program haul up vegetables from the ground as the intense summer sun beams down. They’re helping enact a plan that aims to transform both the neighborhood’s food and economic circumstances
This is just one of four garden plots cultivated by the nonprofit Growing Home. Some, like this one, grow tomatoes. Others grow greens. Growing Home — which has been cultivating since 2006 on the South Side — has been in a pilot partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository since June to provide sustainable and fresh food to those in need, while helping to grow the farm’s reach within the Englewood community.
Les Brown, who also started the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, founded Growing Home in 1992 after perceiving an uptick in the number of unhoused people in downtown Chicago. A farm downstate was soon established, with the employment training program coming online in 2002. Today, the organization counts 17 full-time employees and a 29-member board, and has hosted more than 100 volunteers in 2021.
The swelling number of people experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic has put a strain on an already-fragile food supply chain, and local and national nonprofits have been angling to help.
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