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A group of teenagers from Chicago are on a mission to address food insecurity in the city. According to Block Club Chicago, By the Hand Club for Kids recently launched a project to transform a liquor store on Chicago’s West Side into a pop-up fresh food market.

The concept for the market was created following a roundtable discussion hosted by By the Hand Club for Kids—a nonprofit centered on educating and empowering youth from underserved communities—about the unrest following the murder of George Floyd. The teenagers, many of whom hail from Chicago’s Austin community, expressed their frustration surrounding disparities that plague their neighborhood. One of the issues that were brought to the forefront of the conversation was the lack of accessibility to healthy and affordable food options. Determined to change the narrative and cultivate a project that would be beneficial for their community, they decided to turn a liquor store located at 423 N. Laramie Ave. into a market.

The teens joined forces with professional athletes Jason Heyward, Diamond DeShields, Jonathan Toews, Lucas Giolito, Mitch Trubisky and others to raise $500,000 to purchase the liquor store and start the transformation process. They’ve also partnered with the food and beverage incubator and production facility Hatchery Chicago to create an entrepreneurship program for the teens who will run the market and youngsters who want to pursue careers in the culinary industry.

“What I heard coming out of that was that students wanted to take all those raw and powerful emotions and turn them into something good and do something from a social justice standpoint,” By the Hand Club for Kids Executive Director Donnita Travis said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “This is a real entrepreneurship opportunity for them, but also an opportunity for them to bring food justice to our neighborhood.”

Projects like the one being led by By the Hand Club for Kids are needed as food deserts have been a pressing issue in Chicago. According to a study conducted by the University of Chicago, although there was an increase of supermarkets throughout the city, there remains a huge lack of accessibility to affordable healthy food options among African-American and socioeconomically disadvantaged residents.

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