2020 has exposed many of America’s most critical shortcomings, and not least among these is hunger. With an estimated 54 million Americans suffering from food insecurity (18 million of whom are children), it’s time to admit: our food system is not merely straining — it is broken.
We’ve witnessed neighbors rallying together in unprecedented acts of compassion to curb the poverty that plagues far too many. But acts of kindness, however beautiful, cannot erase the structural missteps that have made daily nutrition unattainable for countless members of our communities. We’ve got to look at the systemic choices informing how hunger festered before Covid-19 to tackle it in our present moment. Like any weed, hunger must be addressed at the root.
Fortunately, that’s where A Just Harvest comes in.
For 37 years, A Just Harvest (AJH) has been fighting poverty and hunger in Rogers Park and the greater Chicago community, and this means going beyond simply fighting for daily survival for those in need. Their mission is not just to feed the hungry (although they do this 365 days a year), it’s to cultivate abundance. By organizing across racial, cultural and socioeconomic lines, AJH prioritizes engaging with the community it feeds, building a foundation for a more just society. They provide a daily hot meal to anyone, regardless of zip code (making AJH one of the widest-reaching nonprofits in Chicago), and work alongside businesses and organizations to create jobs, education and development that lasts. From the learning garden to the hoophouse to the Community Kitchen, AJH is devoted to building powerful communities, and during Covid-19, this mission has intensified.
Along with meeting the added number of those needing a hot meal, A Just Harvest has now repurposed its dining room into a hub for grocery donations and deliveries. Despite slashed volunteer numbers and a tidal wave of need, they have managed to augment their fight for the community with creativity and care. Sharing resources, AJH opened its doors to the Rogers Park Community Response Team and collaborated to provide staples to homebound locals. The nightly dinner has become a hot lunch to-go. Even without funding from school programs, the urban agriculture team grew fresh produce for the Community Kitchen’s recipes.
Now, AJH is adapting another of its operations: fundraising. The Annual Awards Benefit is this community’s chance to honor and celebrate the collective imagination and outstanding work of those who shepherd A Just Harvest’s mission, and not even COVID-19 can quell that joy. This year’s event is open to all: Thanks to a limitless headcount on the web, everyone is invited to enjoy the evening virtually. There will be handmade artwork, a musical guest, and prizes to win. Plus, anyone who contributes in the Chicago CROP Hunger Walk will receive a discounted registration fee. The event will take place on Wednesday, October 21st at 6:00pm.