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WEST GARFIELD PARK — Contemporary produce may be laborious to seek out and even more durable to afford in West Garfield Park, the place many residents stay greater than a mile away from a grocery retailer.

However on Saturday, residents had their choose of groceries from the town’s high-end supermarkets together with Entire Meals, Dealer Joes and Mariano’s — all at no cost.

The giveaway on the 4000 block of Madison Avenue provided 12,000 kilos of contemporary fruit, veggies, bakery gadgets, meats and different groceries that had been handed out by the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce. The grocery donations had been facilitated by the HoJo Household Help Program, a Lawndale-based group that coordinates meals drives and different packages in neighborhoods going through disinvestment and meals shortage throughout the town.

Timothy Hooper, who co-founded HoJo with cousin Booker Johnson and brother Terrance Hooper, stated he needs the giveaway to assist promote wholesome consuming and encourage a tradition of wellness within the space.

“The top sport is self-sustainability. … Our purpose is to get the low-income areas to get slightly bit extra in tune with more healthy meals, natural meals versus the traditional, nook retailer and fast cease market meals,” Hooper stated. “As soon as we get the notice for more healthy meals up, we wish to get into the precise agriculture. Getting the youth to provide their very own vegetables and fruit.”

HoJo was born out of the great deeds of Hooper’s uncle, former Chicago Bulls energy ahead Mickey Johnson, who often handed meals out within the neighborhood. Finally the giveaways advanced right into a nonprofit in 2014 that coordinates donations from a community of neighborhood organizations, church buildings and grocery shops like Mariano’s, Entire Meals, Dealer Joe’s, Jewel Osco and Contemporary Thyme Farmers Market, which supplied among the meals at Saturday’s giveaway.

“It began out
fairly small,” Hooper stated. “We used to only pack up the minivan with
donated items.”

The giveaway coincided with the birthday of Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce founder Siri Hibbler, who stated there was no approach she’d fairly have a good time than by nourishing her neighbors, younger individuals and the homeless. The chamber additionally reached out to all of the neighborhood colleges to encourage college students and their households to return choose up the free groceries.

“You’d be shocked how many individuals don’t have meals of their pantries,” Hibbler stated. “We’ve acquired over 16,000 homeless children in CPS …  so we’re hoping to have the ability to feed these households as nicely.”

The companions behind the meals giveaway agree that the revitalization of Garfield Park and the higher West Aspect hinges on the event of a tradition that prioritizes well being and wellness. Whereas HoJo goals to offer a complete set of companies from workforce improvement to after college packages, Hooper stated meals entry was on the core of their mission.

Likewise, the shortage
of reasonably priced grocery choices within the space is a significant difficulty that the Garfield
Park Chamber of Commerce hopes to deal with by attracting new companies and
supermarkets to the world. Hibbler stated the grocery giveaways are a useful approach
to alleviate among the want for more healthy meals whereas a extra everlasting
resolution is within the works.

“We definitely want this, particularly till we are able to get us a grocery retailer, which is what we’re making an attempt to place in our improvement. Getting near [landing a] retailer chain over right here in East Garfield Park and West Garfield Park. …We are able to’t construct a wholesome neighborhood till we get some contemporary meals over right here.”

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member
masking Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Membership Chicago.