Little Village Pocket Parks


Gary Comer Youth Center Visit by pocketparks
October 1, 2009, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Visiting the Gay Comer Youth Center, located on the South side of Chicago, provided an opportunity to witness  a bold approach taken by the Gary Comer Foundation to bring a community together through a sustainable practice of farming and gardening.  The center has a rooftop garden, with numerous beds of flowers, herbs, and vegetables, all grown organically.  The garden is maintained through collaborations with the Center’s afterschool programs, which focus on career development. 

Students have the opportunity to learn about urban agriculture, assist in harvesting of the food, and can also learn how to use the food through the culinary arts program.   The program is a holistic one that attempts at teaching students how food travels to land on our tables.  The program is an eye-opening one for students, and even allows students to partake in internships around the city, where they work in organic restaurants to cook with the food they grow.  They also engage in an activity called “harvest table”, apparently a tradition common in the south.  It sounded basically like a potluck, where each group brings something to the table, but begins the dialogue from the beginning of the harvesting process to the actual cooking of the food.  This way the community shares recipes and ideas. 

The Gary Comer foundation attempts to engage the youth by encouraging activities that promote their culture and heritage.  The Foundation hopes that this will help in getting more community buy-in, in the future.  The Foundation is having trouble getting the community to invest in the garden, mainly because of its location on the rooftop, hence creating a psychological barrier.  However, a new high school is being constructed just across the parking lot from the Community Center, which will provide opportunities for a ground-level community garden and open spaces.  The high school will also be using the Community Center and will integrate urban agriculture into their school curriculum.  In addition, the Community Center will try to start walking tours around the neighborhood, where residents can walk to people’s private home gardens and serve as consultants for one another.  The hope is that if residents are proud of their own property, the pride can then be continued onto the rest of the neighborhood, at large.  The cohesive approach by the Gary Comer Foundation includes many more facets; the ultimately goal, however, is to enhance the community’s quality of life.

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