A group of students on Chicago’s West Side are working to establish a year-round fresh market as an affordable food resource for neighbors.
The Austin Harvest market is open for its second season and sells fruit, vegetables and fresh-cut flowers. The students initially created the market following the civil unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd last year but now they’re working to make the market available all year long seeing the dire need for a local grocery option.
The project grew out of conversations from the By The Hand Club for Kids, where food insecurity was a concern voiced by many. Food insecurity is tied to the massive disparities in health outcomes and life expectancies Black Chicagoans face.
Chicago’s public health department released a report in June on racialized health disparities that showed the lifespan of Black people in Chicago is an average of 9.2 years shorter than non-Black people.
“A lot of that as a result, not only from systematic occurrences, but a big part of that is the food. In my community … we don’t have a hospital near us, but we have a dialysis center,” said Azariah Baker, a teen founder of Austin Harvest, according to Block Club Chicago. “We don’t have a grocery store, but we have something to help you once you do get sick. There’s no prevention towards it.”
Austin Harvest is raising money to build a permanent structure at the site of the outdoor market. Construction could begin by the fall. To make a donation to support the building, go to the Austin Harvest fundraiser page.
“Austin Harvest isn’t just a food market. It’s a legacy and it’s a mission toward the community. We’re going to definitely need people who are going to lead and take initiative to serve the community like we’re doing,” Baker said, according to Block Club Chicago.