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Fruits, vegetables and community

Although so-called “food deserts” still plague many areas that participate in NCP, farmers markets during the warmer months help bring fresh fruits and vegetables – and build community – in several communities.

The El Conuco community farmers market, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through September 25, is located on the Paseo Boricua in Humboldt Park at the intersection of Division and California.

The 61st Street farmers market has returned to Woodlawn.

Among the items featured are fruits and vegetables, fresh cut flowers and plants, books, artwork, jewelry and Puerto Rican products. The sponsors include Co-Op Humboldt Park, Division Street Business Development Association, and Pedro Albizu Campos Alternative High School’s Urban Agricultural Initiative.

Elsewhere in Humboldt Park, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago is hosting the West Humboldt Park Farmer’s Market & Bazaar in its parking lot at 3601 W. Chicago Ave. from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays Aug. 7, Sept. 4 and Oct. 2.

In addition to food for sale, the event will feature live entertainment, family fitness activities, cooking demonstrations, and health-related vendors, Muhammad says. Co-sponsors include the West Humboldt Park Development Council, The First Community Land Trust of Chicago, and the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago’s Children (CLOCC).

The Pilsen Community Market will be laying out its goods in the Chicago Community Bank parking lot at 1800 S. Halsted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  on Sundays through Oct. 24. In addition to produce, vendors are selling grass-fed beef, organic poultry, pork and eggs, while cooking and gardening demonstrations are being held.

 The third annual Bronzeville Community Market, sponsored by NCP lead agency Quad Communities Development Corp., will be lining the 4400 and 4500 blocks of S. Cottage Grove Ave. from 8 p.m. through 1 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 30.

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Photo: Aum Mu Ra

A beautiful produce display looks just right on a hot day.

n addition to fruits and vegetables for sale, the Bronzeville market includes a resource table with information from area businesses, a wellness table that provides access to health and social services care as well as testing on site, an Amish baker from Indiana, and a lady named “Auntie Ruth” who sells canned goods and preserves, says Yvette Kelly, NCP organizer with QCDC. A grant from the Wholesome Wave Foundation enables the market to double LINK purchases up to $10.

NCP lead agency Teamwork Englewood is sponsoring the Englewood Farmers Market on Thursdays through Nov. 18 at 63rd and Lowe. The event includes farm tours, barbecue, fruit smoothies, health screenings and yoga -- in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables for sale. The University of Chicago will bring healthy cooking demonstrations in conjunction with the city Department of Health, Jones says.

North Lawndale enjoys the Lawndale Farmers Market, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Wednesday at the Neighborhood Housing Services parking lot, 3539 W. Ogden Ave., run by the Chicago Botanic Gardens and its North Lawndale Green Youth Farm.

Last but not least, the 61st Street Farmers Market has returned to Woodlawn, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through October 30 at 61st and Dorchester. In addition to a wide selection of produce – from staples like tomatoes and green beans to more exotic fare like swiss chard and kohlrabi – the market features organic and pasture-raised beef, chicken, pork, lamb and goat, as well as eggs and cheeses.

Other features at the market, run by Experimental Station, include weekly chef demonstrations and “Fooditude” activities for kids such as recipes, games and information about food and agriculture. To keep you cool, there is iced coffee, smoothies, and lemonade. “It’s the best market in the city,” boasts Arvin Strange, NCP director at NCP Woodlawn.

Takin’ it to the Streets
Street festival season kicks into high gear in neighborhoods that participate in NCP during the latter stages of summer.

Photo: Ernest Sanders

Aztec dance group Nahui Ollin, based in Little Village, graced the festival stage during the 2009 Renaissance Festival, building bridges between that community and Auburn Gresham.

Coming up almost immediately, the Taste of North Lawndale unfolds from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Aug. 7 in Douglas Park, at Sacramento and Ogden. The festival starts with a peace march and rally at the site of the Martin Luther King Apartments at 16th and Hamlin, which will wind its way down Central Park Avenue and Ogden Avenue to Douglas Park, says Isaac Lewis, executive director of the North Lawndale Community News, main sponsor for the Taste.

 In addition to culinary and cultural delights, the Taste of North Lawndale will feature booths related to housing, technology, education, violence prevention, healthcare and civic engagement, Lewis says. “It’s a taste of the resources in North Lawndale,” he says. “We’re trying to bring as many resources from inside and outside the community as possible, so people will know what’s available to them to help them improve their lifestyle.

On Aug. 24, the Greater Englewood Fall Family Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hamilton Park Cultural Center, 513 W. 72nd St. The Chicago Park District is the chief sponsor but Jones figures NCP task force agencies are likely involved.

Tardes en Zocalo 2010 will electrify the cul-de-sac at 18th Place and Paulina from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Aug. 27 with the art, singing, dancing and culinary delights of Mexican culture. Led by NCP lead agency The Resurrection Project, this ninth annual event will highlight the agency’s 20 years of building relationships and creating healthy communities.

On tap for the first time will be the Near West Fest, scheduled for 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 28 at Malcolm X College Plaza, 1950 W. Van Buren. The block-long event, sponsored by the Near West Side Chamber of Commerce and co-sponsored by LISC/Chicago, will feature a live music stage, DJ stage, food from local restaurants, and local retail vendors participating in a sidewalk sale.

Photo: Aum Mu Ra-El

NBA star Dwyane Wade shares a few thoughts during the opening ceremony at the 2009 79th Street Renaissance Festival.

“What’s happening that day is unprecedented,” says Mike Quinlan, executive director of the chamber. “It’s an event that’s going to try to cross boundaries in a way that’s never happened here. Everybody’s excited about this.”

The crossing of boundaries will not be a one-day project, Quinlan says. A big reason for having the event is to kick off the formation of a community umbrella group called the Unification Focus Initiative including the chamber, Near West Side CDC, homeowners’ groups, local block clubs and others.

“We’re getting everybody out of their silos so we can find a common path,” he says.
“This is the event that celebrates the neighborhood, and it’s the kickoff of UFI.” The City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations deserves props for helping to launch the Unification Focus Initiative, he adds.

Washington Park will hold its Peace Festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 28 at the K.L.E.O. Community Family Life Center, 119 E. Garfield Blvd. Aimed particularly at teenagers, the festival will feature several live musical acts, a DJ, games, door prizes, and a back-to-school rally complete with free school supplies.

“The peace festival is one of Washington Park’s efforts to combat violence,” says Brandon Johnson, executive director of NCP lead agency Washington Park Consortium, a co-sponsor of the festival. “We try to highlight positive programs and opportunities for children and families.”

Rounding out the summer will be perhaps the granddaddy of them all, the 5th annual 79th Street Renaissance Festival, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 11 at 79th and Racine. The festival will feature 100 vendors, live entertainment, food and fun.

A moment of silence will be held to recognize the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “We are going to honor those who were fallen at that time,” says Ernest Sanders, NCP organizer for Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corp.

To watch a YouTube video of last year’s Renaissance Festival, please click here.

To read a companion story about the 2010 Hoops in the Hood/B-Ball on the Block program, please click here.

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Arts, Youth , Fresh food, Community Building

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