Chicago Reader Profiles Local Black Farmers’ Market Program

The problem of food deserts — areas lacking access to fresh produce — is (as a search of this blog for the tag “food” will indicate) a pressing problem for the Chicago area.  It is a subject explored in depth in Roosevelt’s SUST 230 Food seminar, which has brought students to work on community gardens in order to abate this problem.  Last week, the Chicago Reader’s cover story focused on a program that seeks to reduce the problems associated with food deserts in and around the city.

This spring [St. John Missionary Baptist Church church leader Donnell Williams] signed up his church with the black farmers’ market program run by Reverend Al Sampson of Fernwood United Methodist Church, on 101st Street in Roseland. Sampson’s grand idea is to bring soul food grown by black people to black people in Chicago. Much of it comes from farm cooperatives in Arkansas and Mississippi, and a smaller amount from the African-American farming community of Hopkins Park in Kankakee County, Illinois…

Reverend Sampson has been organizing farmers’ markets across the south side for 32 years, since long before the term food desert entered the vernacular. He started in 1978 with just one, at Fernwood United Methodist, a few years after he took over as pastor, and he’s managed about five a year since then. In April, Sampson announced he was making a much bigger push. His goal: 20 markets, one for each of the 20 traditionally black wards of Chicago. “It will be the largest mobilization of black farmers’ food in the history of this town,” Sampson told a gathering of community organizers.

Read the complete article for more on Rev. Sampson’s work.  For information on enrolling in future semesters of SUST 230 Food or any other of our courses, visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email

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