July 20th, 2009
Photo: Chicago Lights
By Lynette Holloway
Green Right Now
Collard greens, kale, tomatoes, swiss chard and okra spring from a swath of asphalt amid a bustling sidewalk on Chicago’s North Side. The incongruous site is the Cabrini-Green Chicago Avenue Community Garden, a vegetable and flower garden that was home to basketball and tennis courts more than six years ago.
Enclosed by a chain-link fence, gardeners plant on compost beds shaped like crude graves. It is part of a community garden project conducted by Growing Power, a national non-profit organization, dedicated to helping urban families gain access to healthy food systems. Growing Power, headquartered in Milwaukee, also provides training and oversight for volunteers who participate in the project.
Erika Allen, a mother who uses her art therapy major in her work, is project manager of the Chicago urban garden. She also appears in the critically acclaimed documentary Food Fight, which is about the importance of sustainably produced or locally grown food. She also is the daughter of Will Allen, founder and chief executive officer of Growing Power, who last year was awarded a MacArthur Genius Award for his work in the delivery of healthy food systems in urban areas.