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Evolving stories About Growing Food in a Big City

Healthy food hub opens at Chicago's Malcolm X College

Cassandra West

By Susan Richardson Less than a year after opening its second food hub in Chicago, Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living recently opened its third hub at Malcolm X College on the city’s West Side.

Through biweekly market days, the hub connects residents with fresh produce from regional and national farmers. The Center has food hubs at the Betty Shabazz International Charter School and the medical offices of Dr. Jifunza Wright Carter, who, with her husband, Fred Carter (above), founded the Center. The Shabazz food hub was launched last November.

“We thought Malcolm X College and Betty Shabazz Charter School would make a perfect remarriage,” said Carter, noting that the namesakes of the institutions were married. “And the college’s commitment to the community is very strong.”

Part of the City College System, Malcolm X has an allied health program, which complements the Center's mission, and the campus is located in “the heart of a very serious food desert,” Carter said.

Black Oaks is an eco-campus and farm that seeks to restore the link between African-Americans and their agrarian past, encourage collective economics and promote health and locally grown food. Located in Pembroke Township, a historically black farming community about an hour from Chicago, the Center sponsors training sessions for students and others, teaching them about composting and growing their own food and the politics and history of food production and distribution.

Ghingo W. Brooks, the president of Malcolm X College, has been visiting the Center with his son for several months as part of a rites of passage program. The boys work in the garden and learn about sustainability.

Wright Carter said bringing the food hub to Malcolm X College was part of the president's vision to help address the food desert. However, the college does not have money to allocate to the food hub at this point.

There is also another connection between the college and the Center: Wright Carter teaches a nutrition class at Malcolm X. Her students are required to help out on market days, which offer fresh produce from Pembroke farmers and other farmers across the US. There are also cooking demonstrations to show people how to prepare the food in a healthy way.

The market is the first step in building a base for membership in the new food hub, Wright Carter said.

“The market is an introduction to the whole concept of solutions to the food desert coming from within the food desert,” she said. “These are new ideas for a lot of people, but having the market is something that everybody understands.”

The college has also asked Black Oaks to help it establish a rooftop garden on top of the sprawling building that houses the campus, as well as gardens in its atriums, which will be connected to biology and pharmaceutical studies.

Carter said it is fitting that the newest food hub is tied to a college: “It’s educating the public and informing people that there are other [food] options. “

WHEN: Market Days are twice a month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren St.