Extraordinary People

Teens transform liquor store into food market to provide healthy groceries for locals

Fresh food is a basic necessity, but sadly, in some parts of the world it isn't always so easy to come by.

Healthy food is a basic necessity, but sadly, in some parts of the world it isn’t always so easy to come by.

Austin, a neighbourhood in Chicago, is classified as a “food desert,” meaning that groceries and fresh produce are difficult to come by at the best of times.

Sadly the situation has worsened in recent months after several grocery stores were forced to close temporarily after being looted during protests in America.

However, some savvy teenagers came up with the perfect idea to improve West Side Community – and we have to say we are impressed!

[CREDIT: Facebook/ByTheHandClub]

The group of young entrepreneurs have completely transformed a gutted liquor store into Austin Harvest, a pop-up food market that is set to run for 12 weeks.

The idea for Austin Harvest began with listening circles led by By the Hand Club for Kids, an after-school club which helps children who live in under-resourced neighbourhoods have abundant life.

“What I heard coming out of that was that students wanted to take all those raw and powerful emotions and turn them into something good, and do something from a social justice standpoint,” the group’s executive director Donnita Travis told Book Club Chicago.

[CREDIT: Facebook/ByTheHandClub]

One teenager who has helped bring Austin Harvest to life is Azariah Baker, who told BBC: “Food is a basic necessity, but it’s also a basic necessity we don’t have access to.

“We’ve been behind the scenes completely. We’ve discussed how we want to show our market, where we wanted our market to be, what we sell, what we look like. This is who runs it,” she added.

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Fortunately, the idea also had support various professional athletes, including former Chicago Bears’ linebacker Sam Acho.

“People care. It’s a time for people to show up. I think our world has changed,” Sam told BCC. “So for us to be able to come together and say we’re going to lead that change, it means something.”

[CREDIT: Facebook/ByTheHandClub]

The teens were also given a helping hand from The Hatchery Chicago, who are a food and beverage incubator dedicated to supporting Chicago entreprenuers.

As well as hands-on lessons in real-world business skills including licensing and customer service, they also provide culinary pathways program aimed at helping interested teens work toward careers in the food industry.

“This is a real entrepreneurship opportunity for them,” Donnita explained: “But also an opportunity for them to bring food justice to our neighbourhood. The kids took the idea and ran with it.”

Austin Harvest, officially opened on August 24, is set to run for 12 weeks. Hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3-6 pm.

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