for October, 2016
Each summer, Sweet Water Foundation’s Perry Ave Community Farm brings locally grown food to more than 200 families each week on Chicago’s South Side. “Fresh Food Fridays” has become a neighborhood tradition in the Englewood/Washington Park community from June to October. Each week patrons take home fresh harvests of collard greens,kale, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, sunflower seeds, okra, turnips, peppers, basil , mint, watermelon and more. Come rain or shine Sweet Water Foundation (SWF) team members, youth apprentices and interns have been there to serve up fresh foods to neighbors, friends, and visitors. Fresh Food Fridays are also the vehicle through which SWF harvests large quantities of produce for distribution to local schools, churches, and non-profits that set up market stands to increase access to quality produce across the community.
However, Fresh Food Fridays is so much more than a farmer’s market. Sweet Water Foundation believes that food is an underutilized force for improving health, wellness, and socio-cultural connections in our community. Fresh Food Fridays provides an opportunity for SWF staff to give tours, host nutrition and cooking lessons, document the history of the community through photos and record interviews, and co-create a vision new possibilities for the Perry Ave Community with visitors. Elders share stories of their experiences in the neighborhood before blight. Mothers, grandmothers and uncles share recipes. Others offer preparation tips to encourage fellow patrons to experiment with unfamiliar foods. Some came out of pure curiosity. Regardless of what brought them to Fresh Food Fridays or which food they walked away with in their bags, all were able to experience the feel-good atmosphere of creativity and rebirth in this communal space.
With the support of The Mozilla Hive Chicago Learning Network and the Chicago Community Trust, the Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces project brought together a diverse group of 25 youth who curated their own project-based learning experience to envision and recreate an education and recreation space for youth from a vacant lot on Chicago’s South side.
Over the course of Summer 2016, the Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces program engaged youth from Chicago Architecture Foundation’s (CAF) Teen Fellows Program and Sweet Water Foundation’s (SWF) Apprenticeship and Outreach Program in a 6-week project that took participants through a full design+build program resulting in youth and community-inspired renderings for a full pocket park in Washington Park and construction of a mini-pocket park on a formerly vacant lot.
Youth collaborated in 6 design/build sessions over a 4-week time period in July, followed by 2 build weeks (week 5-6), and a culminating event at the end of week 6. Youth also established DiscoverDesign.org accounts and were issued participation badges from CAF for their work, exposing them to and engaging them in a learning pathway above and beyond this project.
Core programming consisted of 4 sessions focused on design and 2 sessions that engage youth in the construction of elements of their design (e.g., park benches). Sessions were led by professional architects, tradespeople, and/or CAF/SWF staff. Sweet Water Foundation hosted a culminating Harvest Celebration event in week 6 to celebrate the completion of the project and provide youth the opportunity to share their families and friends.
Ultimately, the youth’s voices will be the driving force behind the design of a pocket park and provided the narrative of the story of the project that will make the construction of this new youth-inspired space possible next summer (Summer 2017).