Signs public health, urban agriculture petition to City Council
CHICAGO – June 22, 2011. To create green jobs, combat food deserts and improve public health, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today recommended the Chicago City Council adopt new regulations in support of urban farming.
Simon asked the City Council to give community gardens and urban farms the right to locate on vacant land in residential areas and allow them to operate seasonal stands to sell fresh produce to local residents. The city is working on new zoning provisions that would allow urban agriculture to expand; currently it has no zoning classification for urban agriculture and approves permits on a case-by-case basis.
“Chicago could set the standard for Illinois and the Midwest by adopting an urban agriculture policy that encourages people to grow food in the city,” Lt. Governor Simon said. “Urban farms not only bring green jobs to our neighborhoods, they also transform unused land into productive space and increase public access to locally grown produce.”
“We should take this opportunity to focus our land use and public health on the same goal: improved access to fresh foods,” Simon added. “This makes for good business and better health.”
Simon chairs the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, which is working to develop markets statewide for local food producers. She was among 30 advocates and agencies to endorse a food equity policy sent to the City Council late Tuesday by the Center of Excellence in the Elimination of Disparities, or CEED@Chicago.
A project of the Midwest Latino Heath Research Training and Policy Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, CEED@Chicago is working to improve the equitable distribution of fresh, healthy food in order to reduce the rate of diabetes and cardiovascular disease among African American and Latino communities, said Sheila Castillo, principal investigator for CEED@Chicago.
“What people eat is critical to their health. We see this with chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. People should have greater access to healthy food and urban agriculture is increasingly being seen as an important strategy to accomplish this. We are asking the Chicago City Council to support urban agriculture when they are presented with proposed ordinances,” Castillo said.
In addition to Lt. Governor Simon, Tom Jennings, Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture signed the letter. Other signatories include Daniel Block, Director of the Neighborhood Assistance Center of Chicago State University; and Joe Wilson of Harvest America. They were joined by numerous Chicago residents, including Angela Odoms-Young, Jose Arrom, Lindsay Banks, and Lara Jaskiewicz.
A copy of the policy brief can be found here