Gardeneers Organization Seeking Applicants for Americorps Positions

The Chicago-based organization Gardeneers, founded in 2014 by two Teach for America alumni and based on the city’s West Side, “cultivates customized school garden programs to ensure that each space and the students and communities who care for it connect with healthy food and grow to their full potential” (according to their website and Facebook page). They are currently seeking applicants, ideally recent college graduates, for eight new Americorps-funded positions to work on school gardens with Chicago youth on the West and South Sides.

Details below; application deadline is 10 Jan 2018.

More details on the Americorps positions are available here on the Gardeneers website, and in the text below from a broadcast email received by the editor.

We are searching for individuals with a passion for gardening and environmental work, and who are dedicated to serving Chicago’s youth. While previous experience is encouraged, Gardeneers will train Americorps candidates to gain the necessary gardening and educating skills. The ideal candidate is committed to 10 months of service, is open minded, punctual and resilient.

During the service year, candidate will be placed in a handful of schools, primarily in Chicago’s South and West Sides, where they will serve alongside an experienced Gardeneers’ Garden Educator. The role will be to assist in providing hands-on garden education for students, turning the garden into a lively classroom, while providing students with access and knowledge to living a healthy lifestyle. In addition, they will be vital in maintaining the gardens so that our gardens exude beauty in the neighborhoods we serve. Lastly, they will aide in our community volunteer days, student-run community farm stands, and monthly events!

Each Americorps Member will receive a monthly living stipend, health benefits, the option of student loan deferment, and an education award of $5,815 to pursue higher education (upon completion of 1700 hours of service).

We are looking for candidates who can commit from February 1 to November 30, 2018. This service requirement is full-time and will requires availability on some weekends.

INTERESTED IN APPLYING? We have 8 positions available. Interested candidates should send a cover letter and resume to Alex Rosen, Program Director, at with the header “Americorps Applicant.” Application deadline for 2018 Americorps Service is January 10 ​– applicants accepted on a rolling basis.

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Zero Waste at Rebuilding Exchange — it’s Scraptacular!

by Emma Vuillemot for SUST 240 Waste

Photo from Rebuilding Exchange

Roosevelt University’s SUST 240 Waste class, led by Prof. Graham Pickren, recently visited Rebuilding Exchange, a non-profit social enterprise (501c3) located along the Chicago River in Bucktown. Rebuilding Exchange, RX, is a facility that promotes sustainable deconstruction practices and stores donated, salvaged building materials in their warehouse which is repurposed and available for sale to the public. RX’s mission is to divert valuable building materials from landfills and encourage the practice of reuse.

Unlike your traditional recycling company that focuses on plastic bottles, paper, and metal, Rebuilding Exchange works to recover construction and demolition waste (C&D) to give it a new life. In the C&D waste stream, concrete is the largest category of material generated by weight, followed by wood products. The wood used for building houses are likely to be made of trees that took generations to grow. In 2014 EPA estimated there to 37.3 tons of wood products found at C&D sites (Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Fact Sheet) most of which would be recycled for reuse. Other materials like clay tiles, metal piping, and fixtures would be landfilled. Enterprises like RX play a crucial role in maximizing reuse of hardwoods and wiring, which provides an alternative source of timber to traditional forestry.

(Data Table from EPA)

RX receives lumber, counter tops, window panes, toilets, fencing, appliances, flooring and other materials found houses slated for demolition. Blue Earth Deconstruction, a specialized demolition service based in Illinois, partners with RX and can dismantle residential properties with a salvage rate of “about 95 percent of what’s in the house” When choosing deconstruction over demolition, the client (usually a developer or builder) receives a large tax benefit for donating the goods to RX. Of course, this also diverts a large amount of waste from landfills.

RX demonstrates an exceptional model of a circular economy, one of the themes discussed in SUST240. Rather than the valuable materials having a linear lifespan straight to the landfills, the products are recycled back into the economy either through the manufacturing sector, retail sector, or consumer sector.

All of the materials RX receives from locals or their deconstruction partners are brought over to their warehouse to be itemized, inventoried and marked for retail. Their facility is open to the public and the types of consumers range from aspiring artists looking for unique earthy and rustic materials to contractors choosing lightly-used countertops and cabinet sets. RX and deconstruction services are also able to offer opportunities for jobs and education on sustainable practices. Their job training and apprenticeship programs focus on populations with obstacles to regular employment, such as people with criminal histories. This social justice mission makes RX a truly special kind of institution.

Our class was given a tour of the grounds RX Education Manager Carrie Rasor. The tour of the facility included spending time in the woodshop, where RX offers monthly workshops on furniture making using reclaimed materials. Participants in these workshops have opportunities to create bookshelves, chairs, and even a dining room table. RX has also created their own furniture line “RX Made” and have custom services for clients.

Our group participated in a workshop called Scraptacular, where we made small custom projects from scrapped pieces of lumber, metal fittings, spare tiling, and organic shaped materials. Fueled by innovation, creativity, and curiosity, SUST 240 made pieces ranging from bookends to keyholders to windchimes!

Rebuilding Exchange is truly an institution that fulfills the triple bottom line of sustainability – they work on social issues, they work to conserve resources, and they provide economic opportunities to members of the community.

Emma Vuillemot is a junior Sustainability Studies major and Math minor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Roosevelt University.

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Summer 2018 Course Preview for SUST 390 Rooftop Garden

SUST alumni & students on the WB Rooftop Garden during Service Day 2017. L to R: Moses Viveros, Diana Ramirez, Beeka Quesnell, & Maria Cancilla (photo: M. Bryson)

This coming summer semester (2018) the Sustainability Studies program will offer an innovative special topics course, SUST 390 Rooftop Garden, at the Chicago Campus. Taught by SUST adjunct professor Vicki Gerberich, the class will utilize RU’s unique 5th-story rooftop garden on its LEED Gold-certified Wabash Building as a living classroom for a hands-on, place-based, get-your-hands-dirty learning experience.

  • Title/number: SUST 390 Rooftop Garden (section 01)
  • Semester offered: Summer 2018 (8 weeks from May 29 thru July 25)
  • Location: Chicago Campus
  • Day/time: Students will work a minimum of 3 hours/week during the class session; specific days/times to be arranged with instructor based on student’s schedule
  • Required first session: May 29, 4-6pm
  • Pre-req: ENG 102

SUST majors and minors may take this class to fulfill an upper-level SUST 3xx requirement, but 390 also is open to students at large seeking an experiential learning course, needing a general education course, or desiring elective credit.

RU President Ali harvests greens from the WB Rooftop Garden during the #AmDreamConf service day, 15 Sept 2016 (photo: RU)

Course Theme: Rooftop Gardens, Campus Sustainability, and Urban Agriculture

Diana Ramirez (BA ’17) works the garden plots on the WB Rooftop Garden, July 2017 (photo: M. Viveros)

This eight-week special topics course focuses on the unique urban ecosystem, the green rooftop, and features hands-on work in and stewardship of the fifth-story Roosevelt University WB Rooftop Garden in downtown Chicago. Students will learn about the relationships among food, biodiversity, waste, urban agriculture, green space design, and campus sustainability leadership through multiple modes: reading, discussing, taking field trips, and working in the RU garden during the summer late spring / early summer planting and growing season.

Course requirements and activities include online interaction through Blackboard; a minimum of three weekly hours working in the garden as scheduled by the student and instructor; and field trips to other urban community gardens and farms, whether rooftop or street-level. Participation in this course constitutes a significant contribution to the sustainability of RU’s Chicago Campus, and helps our community make progress on our 2015-2020 Strategic Sustainability Plan.

Moses Viveros sowing seeds in the rooftop garden, August 2017 (D. Ramirez)

The RU Rooftop Garden in Chicago was started in the spring/summer of 2013, the first growing season after the opening on the Wabash Building in fall 2012. Since then, it has been funded and managed by the Department of Physical Resources, with work being done primarily by student interns and volunteers.

For questions and more details about this course, please contact Vicki Gerberich (, adjunct professor of Sustainability Studies; or Mike Bryson (, chair of the Department of Sociology, Sustainability, and Community Development.

Environmental sustainability summer intern and SUST alum Tiffany Mucci (BPS ’16) with a harvest from the WB rooftop garden, summer 2016 (photo: R. Quesnell)

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College of Arts & Sciences Events for Fall 2017

Dean Bonnie Gunzenhauser cordially invites all members of the Roosevelt University community to attend the following events sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences during the fall, 2017 semester. Please contact Juli Rowen with any questions at or at (312) 322-7142.

8th Annual Math x-Position
The Department of Mathematics and Actuarial Science and Economics is sponsoring its 8th Annual Math x-Position on Friday, December 1 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Chicago Campus, in the Wabash Building, 4th Floor. All members of the Roosevelt community are invited to attend the poster sessions, career panel, keynote address, and competitions that celebrate the work of our mathematics students.  The event is free and open to all members of the Roosevelt community.​ For more information, contact Professor Steve Cohen at

Montesquieu Forum Lecture: Gods, Fools and Philosophers: Reading Plato’s ‘Euthyphro’
The Montesquieu Forum for the Study of Civic Life is hosting a lecture with Professor Hannes Kerber of the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation of Munich, Germany, on Tuesday, December 5 at 4:30 p.m. at the Chicago Campus, Auditorium Building, room 720. Professor Kerber will discuss Gods, Fools and Philosophers: Reading Plato’s ‘Euthyphro.’ Free and open to all members of the Roosevelt community and to the public. For more information, contact Professor Andrew Trees at

Confronting Populism: Lessons from Brexit-era UK
The Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project Fall 2017 Distinguished Speaker Series focuses on Migration, Populism, and Human Rights. Join us for a panel discussion – Confronting Populism: Lessons from Brexit-era UK –  featuring a panel of Roosevelt student researchers who will present the results of their research trip to the United Kingdom to a panel of local leaders on Wednesday, December 6 from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Chicago Campus, Auditorium Building, 2nd floor Sullivan Lounge. The event is free and open to all members of the Roosevelt community and to the public. Please RSVP:  For more information, contact Professor Bethany Barratt at

ACP 250 Student Poster Session on the Gig Economy
Students in Prof. June Lapidus’ ACP 250 course will present posters of their research on the gig economy on Thursday, December 7 from 12:30-2 p.m. at the Chicago Campus, Fainman Lounge, 2nd floor of the Auditorium Building. Celebrate the work of our students. Open to all members of the Roosevelt community. For more information, contact Professor June Lapidus at

Women’s and Gender Studies Program: Our Actions, Our Stories: A Reader’s Theater
The Women’s and Gender Studies Program is hosting Our Actions, Our Stories: A Reader’s Theater on Thursday, December 7 from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Chicago Campus, Auditorium Building, room 244, Spertus Lounge. All members of the Roosevelt community are invited to hear stories about social justice activism, leadership, and identity. Guests are encouraged to bring non-perishable food and hygiene items to donate to the University’s on-campus food pantry. For more information, contact Professor Sandra Frink at

Gage Gallery – Nowhere People – The Children: Photographs by Greg Constantine
The Roosevelt University Gage Gallery fall show is Nowhere People – The Children: Photographs by Greg Constantine. The project reveals the harsh realities of the global community of stateless people, including children. The denial of citizenship is the root cause of any number of critical issues, including forced migration, human trafficking and armed conflict. These photographs give a small voice to people who for generations have had none, and illustrate the toll denial of citizenship has claimed on people and ethnic groups excluded from society by forces beyond their control. The show is sponsored by the journalism program of the Department of Communication at Roosevelt University, with generous financial support from Susan B. Rubnitz and Elyse Koren-Camarra. The show runs through December 2 at Roosevelt’s Gage Gallery, 18 S. Michigan Ave. For more information, visit .

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Sanctuary on the South Side of Chicago

By Daniel Krejsa for SUST 350

Within the frayed urban landscape of the south side Chicago neighborhood of Fuller Park, there is sliver of green space that provides visitors a glimpse of what Chicago looked like before industrialization. Nestled between a lively railroad crossing and a bustling interstate, this sanctuary demonstrates that life can grow amidst urbanization. Eden Place Nature Center covers an entire city block with lush plant life native to the region growing in abundance.

Eden Place Nature Center co-founder Michael Howard (back row, center) with children, Chicago IL (source: EPNC)

Farm animals from chickens to ducks, goats, and ponies roam the grounds, bathing in a man-made pond and eating the vegetation grown within the parameters. Native prairie grasses and wetland plants can be seen covering existing street signs, signifying the endurance of the natural world within the urban landscape.

This area provides more than just a place for animals to live and plants to grow; it gives the people of Fuller Park opportunities to experience something they probably never have before. The nature center gives them a chance to get out of the grit and grind of the city and allows children to learn about the natural environment. This opportunity is of great value, not the least because the community of Fuller Park is predominantly low-income African Americans who are bound to the borders of the city and whose children are hardly ever introduced to wildlife.

Apart from squirrels and pigeons, children only get depictions of animals from movies and animated television shows. Education is an important part of preserving the natural world and in today’s political climate, this could not be more relevant. Eden Place educates children from local schools about the workings and preservation in order to give these kids an appreciation for wilderness and animal life, hoping that in doing so, they too will work to protect our forests, prairies, and other green spaces in the future.

Michael Howard, EPNC Director, shows a hen to schoolchildren at Pumpkin Fest, 31 Oct 2017 (E. Vuillemot)

Another way Eden Place has tackled local environmental issues is with the establishment of Eden Place Farm, where I have been grateful enough to do some work at this fall semester in Roosevelt’s SUST 350 Service & Sustainability class. This humble post-industrial site grows several varieties of vegetables, freshly picked and cleaned in order to sell to people within the community through weekly farmers markets.

The concept of fresh produce may seem simple to people like myself, with easy access to fruits and vegetables daily; but this is not the case for many people living in low income neighborhoods, such as Fuller Park. Lack of easy access to fresh produce can deter people from traveling far distances to obtain healthy foods and instead encourage them to purchase processed alternatives from local corner stores.

Emma Vuillemot working at Eden Place Farm for SUST 350, Sept 2017 (M. Bryson)

This is described in South Side Weekly’s article “The Fight for Fruits and Veggies,” which analyzes food access in poorer neighborhoods with less healthy food opportunities. An increase in dialysis clinics is clear evidence that this problem is having lasting effects in these communities, and Eden Place Farm is here to provide a service to counteract this trend. The operation is not yet large-scale and cannot feed everyone within the area, but they are creating a foundation to what could be: a thriving urban farm that doesn’t depend on food traveling thousands of miles releasing gross amounts of carbon. Customers don’t need to check the origins of fruits and vegetables wondering if they grower is under the thumb of the Monsanto company. While this farm site has limited room to grow, Eden Place intends to spread the idea on Chicago South and West Sides, where it can easily multiply to other empty lots around the area — and yes, there are plenty.

Through perseverance and education, Eden Place is on the forefront of a revolution to change how people get their food. With many other urban farms already in place around Chicago, it’s only a matter of time until this becomes the new norm.


Makoul, Z. (2016, December 01). The Fight for Fruits & Veggies – South Side Weekly. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from

Dan Kresja is a senior Sustainability Studies major and Math minor at Roosevelt University.

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The Urban Ecology Field Lab: SUST alum Diana Ramirez Reflects on Her Summer 2017 Fellowship Experience

By Diana Ramirez (BA ‘17)

Diana Ramirez (at right) with fellow students in the Urban Ecology Field Lab, summer 2017

As we have officially moved into the “cooler season” of the year, I can’t help but reflect on what might very well be the most successful summer of my life. The Urban Ecology Field Lab Summer program at the Field Museum — co-founded by Environmental Social Scientist Jacob Campbell and Chicago Region Senior Program Manager Abigail Derby-Lewis, both of the Keller Science Action Center at the Field Museum, and facilitated by Roosevelt’s Assistant Professor of Sustainability Studies, Graham Pickren — served as an ideal follow-up immersive research experience after completing my undergrad at Roosevelt U in May 2017 and working as an intern at the Field Museum during my final two semesters as a student.

2017 Urban Ecology Field Lab students & staff at the Field Museum, Chicago IL (SUST alum Diana Ramirez, 4th from left; SUST prof Graham Pickren, 2nd from right)

I feel privileged to have gained invaluable experience throughout the various training sessions, fieldwork experiences, lectures, and networking opportunities we ambitiously took on. But I am also very honored to have spent my summer with such amazing people, as I had the chance to cultivate relationships and develop inside jokes and nicknames among our small cohort of seven.

Throughout this 8-week program, we spent the first five weeks meeting at the museum Monday – Friday from 9am to 3pm for a very intense amount of fun and learning. A few major highlights would definitely be the two camping trips we ventured on together, the first being at the Indiana Dunes State Park and the other at Northerly Island in the city! Considering how much I personally enjoy camping, I knew I would have a great time with some good people, but the additional scientific work we conducted really made for some unique, memorable experiences.

For instance, while at the Dunes, we had the opportunity to survey areas off Cowles Bog Trail for toads, frogs and salamanders, as well as survey noise and light pollution throughout different parts of the Park for comparison to each other. We also tested water quality by comparing dissolved oxygen levels within three different sampling sites and worked with mobile equipment to monitor air quality, including the presence of ozone.

Another major highlight was our day trip to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, where we had the chance to get involved with prairie restoration work for some real-world impact on Midewin’s evolving landscape. The tremendous ecosystem services provided by the deep-root system of an established prairie site are testament to the importance of ecological restoration work on behalf of this endangered Illinois ecosystem.

The signature feature of the Urban Ecology Field Lab is how it integrates research techniques from both the social and natural sciences, within the context of urban ecosystems. After five weeks of studying and practicing various anthropological methods (ethnography, asset-mapping, and participatory action research) and ecological methods (soil and water testing and plant and wildlife monitoring) as well as visiting local urban natural areas and green spaces (community gardens, oak savannas, wetlands, and prairies), we were finally equipped with the resources and knowledge to design and carry-out our own collaborative research projects.

We divided into three groups to focus on separate sides of an overarching issue in order to reflect the collaborative approach of the work done by the Chicago Park District, which served as both our partner and stakeholder in these projects. So, we essentially worked together for two-and-a-half intense weeks on complementary research projects by collecting our own data and background research as three separate groups, while consistently engaging as an overall team to develop an understanding of the bridges connecting our work.

As members of the Social Survey Team, we conducted intercept surveys throughout the Burnham Wildlife Corridor (BWC), the most extensive site of conserved natural land along the Chicago lakefront within the CPD system, in order to explore the ways in which the public was perceiving and engaging with this new park management style, as CPD aims to shift away from traditional turf areas and introduce more natural habitats as green space within the city.

With a focus on urban green space accessibility as a social justice issue, we also attempted to gauge the level of activation the Gathering Spaces have experienced thus far, which were established as culturally significant sites throughout the BWC intended to serve as respite to urban dwellers who may not necessarily have their own green space to occupy and reflect, as a project by the Roots and Routes Initiative.

Our team’s final report, What are the motivations for usage and challenges for accessibility in the Burnham Wildlife Corridor (BWC) comparing traditional park areas and natural restoration areas?, focuses on discovering ways in which CPD can effectively work to dissolve the disconnect between city dwellers and green space through future efforts for enhanced wayfinding and a sense of inclusion in order to maximize the benefits of green space accessibility provided to Chicago community members.

While also collecting data within the BWC, the two other groups focused on comparing ecological benefits of traditional park sites and restored natural habitat sites throughout the BWC: Beetles in Urban Restoration: A Comparison of Coleoptera in Restored Prairie in the Burnham Wildlife Corridor explored the abundance of beetle biodiversity; and Soil Infiltration Rates of Restored Sites within the Chicago Area explored the comparative quality of water infiltration as an ecosystem service provided by traditional turf vs. restored native prairie sites.

Having been exposed to many on-the-ground efforts for community engagement and social change throughout the city of Chicago, I am without a doubt that this is my life’s work. I hope for many more opportunities to contribute my passion for environmental and social justice towards building resilient communities with cultural inclusivity, environmental consciousness, and an enhanced quality of life for all — but will struggle to make as sweet and long-lasting of memories as I did with my Urban Ecology ‘17 gang.

If you are interested in reading the final report the Social Survey Team produced, or checking out our final presentation which highlights our objectives, methods, results and recommendations, please contact me (

Diana Ramirez earned her BA in May 2017 at Roosevelt University in sociology and sustainability studies (with honors) and was an active member of the RU Green student environmental organization. This past summer, she worked with fellow SUST alum Moses Viveros as stewards of the WB Rooftop Garden at RU’s Chicago Campus, worked she continued this fall as an alum. Diana completed an environmental science research fellowship with the Urban Ecology Field Lab at the Field Museum in Chicago during the summer of 2017. 

Posted in alumni, biodiversity, cities, conservation, ecology, education, fellowships, museums, parks and public land, research, Roosevelt, science, students

Growing Chicago: Food Access and Urban Agriculture

By Nikki Braus for SUST 350

My friends frequently brag about the convenience of living within the heart of Chicago’s densely-settled urban landscape — everything is so close together, and everything you need is within walking distance or just a bus ride away! But some of them rarely bring home fresh produce from their travels, as the nearest grocer supplying them is far enough away that it is deemed an inconvenience to bring home regularly. Cooking from home or having fresh fruits and vegetables to snack on is viewed as a treat or chore, or passed up for processed foods found at the Dollar General a half block away.

When an urban community finds itself over a mile away from any grocers selling fresh produce, it is considered to be residing within a food desert. This means that while convenience stores full of dry goods and salty snacks may be clustered around their residence, most of anything considered nutritious and health-conscious is far out of reach. This is a problem that affects more than just a handful of my college-age friends, it can impact entire neighborhoods and communities — particularly those on the South and West Sides of Chicago. When supermarkets and grocery stores cannot be convinced to settle down in these areas, those within said communities have very few options for finding an affordable way to support their diet with healthy and fresh food.

RU students worked at the Chicago Lights Urban Farm for SUST 350 Service & Sustainability
(M. Bryson, May 2012)

There is one option, however, that seems to be gaining more and more ground as the years go by. Urban agriculture—whether it be through community gardens, planters full of tomatoes on balconies, edible landscaping, or full-fledged urban farms—is taking root in Chicago. It is a solution that at-risk families in impoverished neighborhoods within the city limits can look forward to as more and more examples of urban agriculture production are popping up from out of the ground (and out of roofs, too!). When a family cannot afford to travel long distances to purchase fresh goods–which are usually priced higher but of lower quality—they can count on the outputs of local community gardens to provide fresh produce. If more community gardens open to the public in these neighborhoods were erected, inhabitants in need of nutritious sustenance could leave with more than a handful of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Urban agriculture not only provides benefits in the kitchen, but also in schools. Instilling the desire to garden and educating children in nutrition through hands-on experiences have proven to be effective ways to increase their fruit and vegetable intake throughout the course of their lives. If implemented in all schools, especially those in at-risk communities, we can give youth a better chance at living healthy by giving them the training and tools they need to create a self-sufficient and sustainable future for themselves through gardening.

Susan Richardson’s short article entitled “Food Gardens Help Revitalize Chicago’s Englewood” profiles the community gardens that have sprung up in and throughout the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. She describes the benefits beautifying these formerly-vacant lots has had on the community and public safety, as well as identifies Englewood as a food desert that could greatly improve from the presence of food-bearing community gardens. Her account of the restoration taking place in Englewood provides a first-hand look at urban agriculture in action at the heart of Chicago’s most at-risk populace—the disenfranchised, low-income residents of what has been characterized as a “failing” area.

Englewood Heritage Station comm garden

Englewood Heritage Station community garden in Chicago IL (source: Englewood Heritage Station)

Community gardens aside, there are other ways to incorporate food security into our landscape designs, some of which are almost strictly decorative. I’ve recently seen this first hand at Randhurst’s outdoor mall, where edible greens and colorful peppers were planted amongst fall flowers. Darrin Nordahl, author of the book Public Produce, suggests using medians and lining our sidewalks with productive plants (such as replacing current city trees with fruit-bearing ones), taking urban agriculture to a level of widespread edible landscaping.

Dotting our concrete jungle with copious amounts of produce-bearing plants may not happen in Chicago within the next few years, but it would be an effective way in giving some citizens a small amount of food security through foraging. Additionally, it would give children in the community much more exposure to seeing food grow, which can be helpful even in a passive setting (as with medians or planters in front of businesses). Nordahl also does a great job of addressing food deserts for urban areas and using plants in schools with our children as a way to learn about food.

Geanna Pecaski McLennan, author of the article “’Ready, Set, Grow!’ Nurturing Young Children Through Gardening,” shows us that children from in low-income urban areas could learn so much from sowing seeds, tending sprouts, and eventually harvesting the fruits of their labor. Exposing at-risk children to the joys of nurturing a plant not only gives them a sense of accomplishment; it also makes them more likely to consume a higher amount of fruits and vegetables.

Such was the case with McLennan’s students—it even got many of the parents involved with growing and eating healthy food, which most likely would not have happened otherwise if the opportunity had not risen in the classroom. McLennan’s hands-on experience with the positive effects gardening has on children (and by extension, their families) in low-income urban areas is vital in grasping how beneficial and far-reaching the introduction of urban agriculture can be in our schools.

I’d love to see the greenery in Chicago grow exponentially in my lifetime, as I know our citizens and children will grow with it. Closing the gap left by food deserts, revitalizing empty lots and purely-decorative landscaping into being beautiful and practical sources of nourishment, and teaching our children how to turn a patch of dirt into dinner are all admirable ways for greenery to take root in our city, as well as in others. There is so much to gain and nothing to lose by implementing urban agriculture throughout the Chicago cityscape. We gain food security, small-scale sustainability, social justice, and beauty by moving towards a future that helps ensure our and our children’s education, environment, and overall health. So, go out and grow!


  • Nordahl, Darrin. (2009). Public produce. Washington DC: Island Press.
  • Pecaski McLennan, Deanna. (Mar 2010). “Ready, Set, Grow!” Nurturing young children through gardening. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(5), 329-333.
  • Richardson, Susan. (19 July 2010). Food gardens help revitalize Chicago’s Englewood. Seeding Chicago. Demand Media.

Nikki Braus is a senior Sustainability Studies major and Environmental Studies minor at Roosevelt University in Chicago IL.


Posted in agriculture, cities, courses, education, food, Roosevelt, students | 3 Comments