News & Features

StreetWise Vendors to Hit Food Deserts with New EatWise Carts

February 10 2012 - 8:51 AM

EatWise Neighbor Carts"Streetwise today?" If you've lived in Chicago longer than a week, you're familiar with Streetwise, a weekly magazine distributed, and sometimes written, by individuals struggling with homelessness. It's a solid piece of a journalism, and it aims to provide employment and improve the quality of life of those who sell it. Recognizing that selling newspapers doesn't provide much chance for upward mobility, StreetWise has partnered with a for-profit social enterprise called Neighbor Capital to launch EatWise, a fleet of produce carts that will roll out across the city early this spring.

The venture has a dual aim: To provide more employment opportunities for StreetWise vendors, who could then use their food handling certification to gain jobs in commercial kitchens; and to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in food desserts. The task of bringing fresh produce to food deserts, or areas of the city where residents lack access to grocery stores and farmers' markets, was a campaign issue for Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who has fully funded the EatWise launch with a city workforce-development grant. The first ten carts will hit the streets early this spring in food deserts as well as busy downtown intersections, with ten more expected to follow. All will employ StreetWise vendors who have received food handling certification and licenses from the city.

The produce sold by EatWise carts will come from Peapod, not from a local farmer, co-op, or a non-profit land trust like Growing Power. The move seemed strange until one realizes that Peapod is a sponsor of Neighbor Capital, and that the two collaborated on a neighborhood mapping project in 2009 called "Healthy Families," which conducted research to identify Chicago's most severe food deserts. What's heartening is that EatWise demonstrates that city government, non-profits, and corporations have all recognized that food deserts are a real priority, and one that needs to be dealt with from the ground up. [TimeOutChicago]

–Kate Bernot