On Wednesday Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) issued a joint RFP for the Food Equity: Community Growers Program. According to a release issued by the Mayor’s Press Office, this is a $2 million program designed to invest in urban agriculture, and increase food equity in communities with a history of disinvestment. This will be accomplished by fostering the development of local growers to fight food scarcity. The release continues by stating that “through this RFP, the City will provide funding from the Chicago Recovery Plan to one nonprofit organization to serve as a lead delegate agency for the Community Growers Program. This lead delegate agency will provide grants and ongoing technical assistance to awarded growers to ensure project success by understanding the specific needs of each individual project site and provide the appropriate support.”
Grants will become available for individual growers and small organizations in the first quarter of 2023. These grants seek to provide funding for permanent water instillation, capacity building projects, and the support to activate new urban agricultural sites on City-owned vacant lots. These grants would allow local growers to become business owners and would support job generation while combating food scarcity.
In order to be eligible projects must meet the following conditions: be located in, have a demonstrated connection to, and intend to distribute food in parts of the city qualifying as impacted by lack of access to healthy food, as defined in this case as low-income communities or qualified census tracts (QCT).
Mayor Lightfoot signed an executive order codifying Chicago’s first-ever Food Equity Council in February 2022. The Food Equity Council is a private-public partnership that seeks to reshape Chicago’s food system into a more just and equitable model. The Community Growers Program was co-created with the Urban Agriculture workgroup of the Food Equity Council and both uphold the broader Food Equity Agenda.