At Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC) on Chicago’s South Side, teenagers and young adults are making kale and cheese scones, hand-sculpted granola bars made with honey from their on-site bee farm, and lavender tea. Their talents are honed through their participation in GCYC’s “Producing Pathways in Greater Grand Crossing Program,” which prepares students ages 16-24 to succeed in careers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), including gaining skills to specialize in sustainability, alleviate food insecurity and improve health outcomes for local communities.
“Marginalized and food insecure communities need options for healthy food at a cheap price point.”
This goal – preparing the next generation to create solutions for food and health disparities is prescient. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 9.3 percent of Cook County residents struggled to buy food, according to data from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Since the pandemic, the hunger crisis has dramatically increased to roughly 12 percent of Cook County residents facing food insecurity in 2021.
“I think the students realize that by planting a seed, they can change their environment because they can grow their food and control their food supply,”