Bronzeville nurse hoping to bring more healthy food to neighborhood gets $ 15,000 municipal grant

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GRAND BOULEVARD – Lori Ouding, pediatric nurse, has been on a mission to build a dining room in Bronzeville for several years, investing $ 50,000 of her own money to create space for the community.

The pandemic has slowed her progress, but last week she found out that her project, Food Matters, was receiving $ 15,000 from a municipal program designed to support healthy communities near public transportation.

Food Matters, planned near the Green Line at 435 E. 43rd Street, envisions a year-round indoor farmers market, shared commercial kitchens, and community gathering space, all focused on improving nutrition and health. access to food. Ouding is still working on buying the town property, but the $ 15,000 grant will help with marketing and allow him to hire consultants to help him find potential clients or sellers.

“It’s important on the pre-development side of some of these things. Because it’s a pilot project and it’s in collaboration with the city, we really get a lot of publicity in that it’s here for people to see it, ”Ouding said, who moved to Chicago from Michigan in 2008.

Ouding has already amassed substantial support from the public and private sectors, including Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) and Elevated Chicago at Hanna Architects, who signed the project. She also received a grant from the Chicago Community Loan Fund and assistance from Chicago TREND, an entity created to stimulate economic development.

The increased visibility of Food Matters has also helped to generate interest in its project on social media, Ouding added.

What started out as an $ 8 million project could end up costing $ 2 million more, she told Block Club. The price of the land has doubled in appraised value, but Ouding is confident the deal will be closed soon.

Ultimately, she envisions a future where spaces like hers can act as a lifeline in every neighborhood with a system that can operate year round and not have to depend on seasonality for food and produce. costs.

“Covid has changed the way people view the food system a lot,” Ouding said. “If we had been operational we could have helped a lot of these food deliveries to homes for the food insecure people because we would have everything there. “

The city’s ETOD pilot program is part of a larger effort to address the lack of commercial development around transit corridors in underserved areas by funding projects created to help them. Adopted by the Chicago Plan Commission in June 2021, the three-pronged plan had been under development since 2019.

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