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Designing Access To Food

Since 2017, Borderless Studio has been activating Anthony Overton through Creative Grounds. This year brought unprecedented challenges that community members at Overton worked to overcome and strengthen the resilience of our neighborhood.

In early June, Overton community members met and discussed the current issues their community was facing. Due to the COVID-19 breakout, many grocery stores across Southside had closed, and CPS stopped their food distribution program. The closest available grocery stores from Bronzeville were at least a couple miles away, and required membership. Food systems and infrastructure were failing our community, so we had to find a way to help.

Photo: Jamie Kelter Davis

It was important for us to be strategic, and think about making distribution as accessible as possible not only in Bronzeville, but to as many Southside community residents as possible.

We received an amazing response both from volunteers, donors and site partners for distribution – we started with a meeting with Lefty Boyd, and he immediately signed up his own organization (I Am Chicago Basketball) and his employer (Acclivus) to partner with us. After seven weeks of operations we have connected with and distributed goods to over 20 pop-up pick-up sites across the Southside (Bronzeville, Washington Park, Back of the Yards, Woodlawn, Grand Crossing, Auburn, Roseland, Chatham, South Shore).

Photo: Glenance Green

This food access effort was only meant to be temporary – a rapid response. We have been planning and recalibrating our operations on a weekly basis since most of June, and because of the support received, we decided to extend this effort during July and August. We had designed and deployed a system, it was only fair to keep it running until donations dry or supplies last. As food systems and access get restored in the community, we are transitioning into thinking what could be the legacy of this project, and how can we support the connection of residents to the resources they have available in the community – especially seniors and vulnerable families. As a result we are in the process of designing a food access resource guide for the Southside, inspired by other efforts such as City Bureau created an online Chicago COVID Resource Finder, and aimed at integrating databases created by the City (grocery stores status and CPS free meal distribution). We believe community care and solidarity takes different shapes and forms. Designing access to food through community-led rapid response is where we found our place to support and serve our community through our professional skills, training and networks.

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